“They suggested we pitch from the grass, but I stood on the mound,” says Reform Judaism Rabbi Stephanie Alexander. “I owned it.”
We’re talking about an honorary first-pitch throw at a RiverDogs game. She’d shown up with her own glove, ready for play. The 40-year-old baseball fan—who was also a soccer goalie standout in high school, by the way—is the spiritual leader at Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim. That’s the KKBE, the beautiful Hasell Street temple with elegant, tall columns and a congregation dating to 1749.
Around Charleston, Rabbi Alexander is a team player when it comes to community betterment. She’s one of the founders of the Charleston Area Justice Ministry—the group that’s taken the lead on social justice organizing around tough issues like wage theft and “investigatory” police stops—and she was literally on the bus when an inter-faith group from Charleston took a Freedom Road Tour of the South last summer. Her husband, Rabbi Aaron Sherman, and their 7-year-old son, Eli, were along, too. With members of Charity Missionary Baptist Church and Circular Congregational Church, the caravan had already been to Atlanta, Selma, and the Memphis motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
Then, on that hot and awful summer night, phones began to ring on the bus with the terrible news from Emanuel AME in Charleston. Rev. Clementa Pinckney was a friend and colleague. They’d spoken before each other’s congregations. “The world kind of changed on that bus trip,” she recalls.
Since then, Rabbi Alexander has been asked to talk about the experience and about the biggest take-aways. “Build relationships,” is her admittedly simple advice. “Get to know people. Then when something terrible happens—or there’s something to celebrate—you’re standing shoulder to shoulder again, just as you have for other things before.”
Words by Sandy Lang
Photo by Adam Chandler