I want to be a Rabbi
Hello my name is Sandra Lawson. I am the first LGBTQ person of African-American descent accepted to the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, in Wyncote PA. I am raising money for my tuition for the upcoming 2014-2015 school year and I need help from the community to continue my education. My current tuition is about $20,000 and I am also applying for scholarships to help offset that cost but without this tuition I will not be able to fulfill my dream of being a rabbi and wanting to help create a welcoming Jewish community for all.
If you would like to know more about my journey to rabbinical school please check this out My Story
It’s been awhile since my last update and as the new year approaches I’ve been reflecting on this past year. Last year at this time I was getting ready to leave for Israel. I was scared, nervous and not sure what to expect upon arrival. The cool thing is that I was in Israel with my RRC (Reconstructionist Rabbinical College) sisters, Julie and Ariel and I did not have to face the experience alone. I had a life-changing experience in Israel and I met some amazing people and I hope our paths will cross again soon.
When I came back to the United States I was excited to assume my duties as the President of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College Student Association.
This year I started on a quest of how to make Judaism more accessible. I asked myself if we create sacred spaces outside the walls of our synagogues, will Jews participate. I believe that Jews want to engage in Jewish life and want to be a part of a Jewish community, we just have to think differently and creatively about what it means to be engaged in Jewish life. I wanted to create innovative ways to connect to people and create a different model of what it means to be a rabbi in the 21st century. If you want to learn more about my thoughts on this you can read about it on my Medium blog here http://bit.ly/2dizbr1 and http://bit.ly/2cv1EJ4
In the spring I applied for and received a grant to lead Shabbat services in a cafe in Lansdale, Pa. I met Jews in Lansdale that are excited to learn more about Judaism and be a part of a Jewish community but were turned off by synagogues, so with the help of Arnold’s Way Cafe in Lansdale we created a sacred space in a cafe and held Shabbat service. If you want to learn more about it, check out these articles from the Philadelphia Inquirer http://bit.ly/2cBqdCt and from the JTA http://bit.ly/1tvDPEw. In addition to that, I use social media as a way to bring Judaism to people. I started using Snapchat as a tool to engage with people about Judaism. Then this summer I was listed as one of 10 Jews you should follow on Snapchat, http://bit.ly/2aGi2nz. Now I’m bringing that same innovation to Instagram with what I am calling “One-Minute Lessons from the Torah.” I’ve also done a few experiments with Jewish prayer and Jewish music on different live streaming platforms.
Lastly, this year I received a $11,000 scholarship (awesome) for my tuition but I still need $4000 to cover the rest of my tuition for this semester and $8000 for the year. Susan and I will more than likely take out a loan, but I’m trying to offset that as much as possible. Since I started this campaign you all have helped me raise over 7k for my tuition either by donating and/or sharing my story and I really do want to thank you. I am grateful every day for those who have reached out to me and tell me they are rooting for me.
If you want to stay connected feel free to reach out to me via Facebook,com/sjlawson, Twitter.com/sandrajlawson, Instagram.com/sandrajlawson or Snapchat.com/add/sandralawson
Shabbat Shalom and have a great weekend.
I'm still raising money for school and I still need your help. If you can donate great, if not, spread the word. Another way that you can help is by subscribing to my new Youtube channel (the link is in the video). I created the channel to learn Jewish music and as I learn it I want to teach others how to play the songs I'm learning. Also along the way I started to learn some folk songs from the book Rise Up Singing. Yesterday I learned the song I'll Fly Away . It's an old gospel song that I thought was fitting since I'm "flying away" to Israel.
Until next time.
It’s been about three months since my last update and I can't believe this summer is almost over and it's time to head back to school for another year of rabbinical school which puts me a little closer to becoming a rabbi.
It's been a very busy summer. First off I finished my Chaplain Pastoral Education (CPE) program which is the first of four units to becoming a certified chaplain. It was an amazing experience and I was fortunate enough to work with and learn from some awesome people who like me want to be clergy someday.
The gift that I did not expect from my CPE experience was my work with patients with dementia. I learned to connect with people suffering from the disease by using music and my guitar. It was beautiful watching people who at first seemed locked inside their own minds, come to life as we sang songs like "You Are My Sunshine" "Amazing Grace" I've Been Working on the Railroad" and a few others. I hope to continue this type of work as part of my training to become a rabbi.
The other gift from CPE is that I rediscovered how much I love playing guitar and I have found a practical use for it. I have also discovered a creative side that I'm not sure I knew existed, songwriting. I've written a few Jewish prayers set to music. If you want to check them out visit the youtube channel that I created http://bit.ly/1U58uEB
In a few weeks I will be heading to Israel to study. I'll be there until the end of the semester. The donations that you all have given me helped me to pay for the plane ticket. WIthout your donations I'm not sure how I would have paid for the ticket. My school requires that I study in Israel but there is no aid to pay for airfare.
Lastly the most important thing that happened to me this summer is that I got married. I got married on the first of Elul, the month of Love (August 15, 2015) my wedding really and truly was the perfect day.
Also if want to learn more about me, please check out my website Sandralawson.org