Two decades ago, an African-American leader in a synagogue might have been about as likely as an African American in the White House. But Stanton's ascendancy reflects the slowly changing face of America's Jews. According to Diane Tobin, a demographer with the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish and Community Research (IJCR), some 20% of American Jewry is now non-Caucasian. While there is no data specifically on black Jews, "a large percentage [of nonwhite Jews] are African American," Tobin says. "Most arrive via conversion, adoption or mixed Jewish-black marriages," she adds, "and are far from Judaism's fringes and part of traditional communities." (source)
I find it fascinating that she was able to beat out so many other candidates, especially in the South:
She beat out some half-dozen candidates for the position of rabbi at Congregation Bayt Shalom in North Carolina. Much of Stanton's appeal, says synagogue president Michael Barondes, lies in her ability to connect and communicate powerfully, both from the pulpit and face-to-face. Those are skills Stanton honed during an earlier career, before entering the seminary — as a psychotherapist specializing in grief and loss. She helped counsel victims of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School. "She knows intuitively how to listen to people," says Barondes. "And as a one-synagogue town, we need a rabbi who can reach out to all of our members." (source)
Times are a'changin....