Episode 34: The Snapchat Rabbi - Sandra Lawson


Sandra Lawson, described in a recent article as "an African-American lesbian who converted to Judaism, eats vegan, and is now studying to be a rabbi at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College," joins Dan and Lex in a discussion on the present and future of Judaism. She offers her take on issues ranging from race, sexuality, and intermarriage to the future of synagogues and  emerging forms of digital Jewish life. [1] 

Image Credit: Sandra Lawson

Image Credit: Sandra Lawson

(0:01 - 11:38): Lawson tells her personal Jewish story and what led her to become a rabbi. [2] She also outlines the work she is doing today, beyond rabbinical studies at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, including what she has done to blend the seemingly disparate worlds of Torah and Snapchat. [3]

(11:39 - 23:03): Lawson discusses the broad set of American Jews who are interested in Judaism but not currently involved in Jewish institutions, looking both at barriers standing in the way of their involvement and at possible paths forward that could create compelling forms of Judaism for this cohort. She also explores the issue of intermarriage as it related to her experience at the LGBT-founded Congregation Bet Haverim in Atlanta. 

Image Credit: Sandra Lawson, Snapchat

Image Credit: Sandra Lawson, Snapchat

(23:04 - 36:31): Lawson explores the contemporary landscape of digital forms of Judaism, from social media to the recent phenomenon of Pokemon Go. She also shares her thoughts on conversion and proselytizing. [4]

(36:32 - 46:46): In closing, Lawson examines questions of economics and affordability in contemporary Judaism. To what extent has the financial cost of 21st Century Judaism become overwhelming for many who might otherwise be interested in participating? To what extent are non-financial barriers standing in the way?

[1] To learn more about Sandra Lawson, check out these two recent pieces published by Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA). The first is a June 2016 article about her, and the second features her as one of "10 Jews You Should Follow on Snapchat."

Image Credit: TheRealWeeklyShow.Wordpress.com

Image Credit: TheRealWeeklyShow.Wordpress.com

[2] In telling her own story of conversion and the choice to enter rabbinical school, Lawson credits her connection to Congregation Bet Haverim in Atlanta, along with its rabbi, Joshua Lesser. Stay tuned for next week's episode of our podcast, where Lesser will join us for a conversation on Judaism and LGBTQ Jews.

[3] There are many articles online about the dangers of Pokemon Go for Jewish life, but one that expounds the opportunities it provides for innovative ideas in Jewish education can be found here (courtesy of DigitalJLearning Network).