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Sandra Lawson    

Rabbi, Sociologist, Musician, Activist

Sandra Lawson is a rabbi who serves as Associate Chaplain for Jewish Life at Elon University. She became the first openly gay, female, black rabbi in the world in 2018. She is a veteran, vegan, sociologist, personal trainer, food activist, weightlifter, writer and musician.

As a college student, Lawson came out as a lesbian and enlisted in the U.S. Army. In the army she served in military law enforcement working on child abuse and domestic violence cases.

Lawson went on to serve as an investigative researcher for the Anti-Defamation League and later began rabbinical school at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. She was the first African-American, and the first openly gay African-American accepted into the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, which occurred in 2011. She was ordained as a rabbi in 2018 and was hired by Elon University that year.

Lawson has been noted for her efforts to teach Judaism in unique locations. As a rabbinical student, Lawson ran a Friday night service at Arnold’s Way, a vegan cafe and health store near Philadelphia. She also has been noted for her efforts to teach by using social media and live video feeds. Lawson has been described as "Snapchat’s Top Rabbi".

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