Rabbi Sandra Lawson (she/her) works with senior staff, lay leaders, clergy, rabbinical students, and Reconstructionist communities to help Reconstructing Judaism realize its deeply held aspiration of becoming an anti-racist organization and movement. In her role, Lawson is developing a series of anti-racist policies and trainings for the organization and its affiliate members. She also serves as a mentor to rabbinical students.
The 2018 Reconstructionist Rabbinical College graduate is one of the first African American, queer, female rabbis. The thought-leader has consciously sought to alter the perception of what a rabbi — and the rabbinate — looks like. Lawson is known for tackling difficult questions surrounding Jews and race in podcasts, essays, media appearances and speeches. A social media pioneer, Lawson models what it means to teach Torah in digital spaces. She has built a following of more than 50,000 people on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok. In 2020, the Forward named Lawson to its “Forward 50” proclaiming her a “truth teller”.
Prior to joining Reconstructing Judaism, Lawson served as the Associate Chaplain for Jewish Life and the Senior Jewish Educator at Hillel at Elon University in North Carolina. She is also the founder of Kol Hapanim – All Faces – an inclusive, Jewish community that is relevant, accessible, and rooted in tradition, where all who come are welcomed and diversity is embraced.
Lawson was born in St. Louis, Mo. and grew up in a military family. She graduated from Florida’s Saint Leo University magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology. She also holds a Master of Arts degree in sociology from Clark Atlanta University.
Lawson served in the U.S. Army as a Military Police person with a specialty in Military Police investigations. She specialized in cases involving child abuse and domestic violence. Upon leaving the military, she started a personal training business and later worked as an adjunct instructor of sociology at local community colleges. She has also served as the investigative researcher for the Anti-Defamation League’s Southeast Region, becoming the go-to person when law enforcement in the South needed information on hate groups.
Lawson lives in North Carolina with her wife Susan and three “fur babies”: Izzy, Bridget and Simon.
Many people have asked how I feel about the Chavin verdict. Whenever I struggle to find words, I’m grateful for the teachings in the Torah, and this week is no exception.