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.
September 19th, 2022 | Season 4 | 38 mins 10 secs
high holidays, jewish, judaism, rosh hashanah, yom kippur
Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D and Rabbi Sandra Lawson, discuss their respective processes of preparing for the High Holidays. This isn’t about leading services, but about how, as human beings, they undertake an accounting of the soul, leading to repentance for their own actions and forgiveness toward others.
May 5th, 2022 | Season 4 | 39 mins 52 secs
Reconstructing Judaism board member and Tikkun Olam Commission co-chair Shahanna McKinney-Baldon opens up with Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D. and Rabbi Sandra Lawson about her time fronting the ska and reggae band Highball Holiday. She talks about how she rediscovered her singing voice in middle age and shedded certain inhibitions and self-consciousness. She also describes Reconstructing Judaism's ongoing process of gaining support for a movement-wide resolution supporting reparations for slavery.
April 8th, 2022 | Season 4 | 46 mins 6 secs
On Sept. 3, 2019, Richard Cohen’s wife, Marcia Horowitz, was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. Horowitz lived 160 more days. In this special episode, Cohen recounts those days and discusses with Rabbi Deborah Waxman what he learned about life as Horowitz's death approached.
December 28th, 2021 | Season 4 | 40 mins 25 secs
What does it mean to be an ally, both to individuals and to groups? How can one begin to do that work in a way that is meaningful? In this episode, Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D. and Rabbi Sandra Lawson – longtime friends and now colleagues – discuss these questions using examples from their own lives. They delve into the difficulty of saying and doing the right thing at the right time,
October 26th, 2021 | Season 4 | 39 mins 53 secs
Helen K. Kim, co-author of JewAsian: Race, Religion, and Identity for America's Newest Jews, stops by to discuss macro topics such as racism in the Jewish community and the rancorous debate over communal demography. Rabbi Deborah Waxman and Rabbi Sandra Lawson also learn about how Kim found inspiration in the work of Maimonides, the medieval Jewish philosopher and Torah commentator.
September 10th, 2021 | Season 4 | 33 mins 10 secs
Amanda Mbuvi, Ph.D., is the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College’s new vice president for academic affairs. We delve into Mbuvi’s desire to deepen how people and communities think about diversity and identity, offer some thoughts on the findings of the Jews Of Color Initiative's latest study and share our hopes for the High Holidays and the coming year.
June 23rd, 2021 | Season 4 | 42 mins 58 secs
Marcella White Campbell is executive director of Be'chol Lashon -- a pioneering organization that strengthens Jewish identity by affirming the racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity of the Jewish people. We discuss her multiracial Jewish family's own experiences as a window into the Jewish community's troubled record in welcoming Jews of Color. She reflects on her own growth into leadership, motivated by the rising cohort of young Jews of Color who deserve a Jewish community where they can thrive and contribute. And she reflects on the rich interplay of her Jewish and Black identities in making meaning at a time of personal loss. Join us for a rich and deeply moving conversation.
April 13th, 2021 | Season 4 | 41 mins 38 secs
We're joined by Professor Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, one of fewer than 100 Black American women to earn a doctorate in physics -- and a Reconstructionist! We discuss the insights she draws from her background as a Black and Ashkenazi Jew, and the richness, complexity, and fruitful challenges that diverse voices bring to the Jewish community. She and Rabbi Sandra Lawson discuss their respective experiences as trailblazers within the physics and the rabbinate. Finally, we delve into theoretical physics and Jewish theology as she explains why she included the ma'ariv prayer in her new book, The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred.
March 1st, 2021 | Season 4 | 38 mins 3 secs
We begin a new season focusing on Judaism, resilience, and racial justice, and welcome a new co-host: Rabbi Sandra Lawson, director of racial diversity, equity, and inclusion for Reconstructing Judaism. We dig deeply into the complexities of engaging in racial justice work within the Jewish community, the necessity for deep listening and empathy toward Jews of color, and the need to draw on resilience practices to stay committed to the challenging but vital process of teshuvah on the path to redemption.