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  • Syracuse Hillel

Rabbi Sandra Lawson to Speak on How Identities Can Influence Change

This year has been full of uncertainty, division, and racial and political injustices. But it has also been a year of activism, collaboration and community. Syracuse Hillel is working with students to address the issues occurring in the world today, and has created a safe space for its students to ask questions and engage in dialogue.

To help address and discuss these issues, Hillel student Julia Schwenderman 22, has invited activist and innovative educator Rabbi Sandra Lawson to speak with Syracuse University students. By bringing her knowledge and experiences to the table, Lawson aims to help students gain a better perspective of how our identities can influence change, and how a community can facilitate anti-racist


The program will take place over Zoom on Monday, Oct. 26, at 6 p.m. The event is open to all and registration is required. The session with Lawson will consist of two parts; the first half of the program will be an opportunity for Lawson to share her story and experiences, and the second half will be a question-and-answer session. By sharing her perspective on the connection between Judaism, racial justice work and LGBTQ+ activism, Lawson intends to provide students with the knowledge and tools to work towards change in our community.

Lawson identifies as a gay, Black, Jewish, American woman, and her activism in the community comes from the intersectionality of all of her identities. Her goal is to educate and bridge the gap between those with multiple identities.

“I was gay over here, and Jewish over here and Black over here,” she says. “Looking back, I guess I felt I would implode if my identities were all in the same place. After that, I made a conscious decision to unite all of my identities … I felt that I could use my identities as a bridge-builder.”

In the effort to build a stronger and inclusive community, Syracuse Hillel and the Jewish Greek Council bring this opportunity with co-sponsorships from Hendricks Chapel, the LGBT Resource Center, Pride Union, the Multicultural Greek Council and the Panhellenic Council. The event is underwritten by Interfaith Youth Core.

“Rabbi Sandra teaches others how they can use their Jewish values to stand up for social justice causes like LGBT rights,” Schwenderman says. “The work that Rabbi Sandra does is a mitzvah, a good deed, and I think she teaches others that there are many different ways to practice Judaism.”

To learn more about Lawson, visit

This story was written by Colby Yablon ’21

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