Laynie Soloman (they/them) – Faculty
Laynie is a passionate teacher of Jewish text, thought, and tradition, they believe deeply in the power of Talmud study as a healing and liberatory spiritual practice. They have spent several years learning and teaching in various batei midrash (homes for Jewish learning) including at Hadar, an egalitarian yeshiva in New York City, where they currently serve as an adjunct faculty member. Laynie is completing a Dual M.A. in Talmud/Rabbinic Literature & Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary, and holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Goucher College. They love facilitating experiences of Jewish learning that uplift the piously irreverent, queer, and subversive spirit of rabbinic text and theology, and they have taught and lectured on these topics in various community spaces, campuses, and in academic settings. When not in shul or learning Talmud, you can find Laynie reading about liberation theology, collecting comic books, and singing niggunim.
James Evans (he/him) – Program Operations Manager
James has been a Chicago resident since the fall of 2012 and has been an active SVARA learner since 2016. He attended Florida State University, where he studied Political Science and French. As an Eagle Scout, his personal motto is “Always be prepared!” When not working on making sure you have the most AMAZING learning environment, he can often be found with his nose in a sci-fi/fantasy book or cooking a delicious meal with friends.
Elaina Marshalek (she/her) – Fairy
Elaina loves studying Talmud, and likes to color code her daf in full rainbow. She recently returned from studying for a year at Yeshivat Hadar in New York, where she taught Talmud out of her living room in Brooklyn. She is excited to continue experimenting with “lay teaching” with SVARA, and to help support the vibrant learning community in her forever home of the Bay Area. When she’s not studying, Elaina works as Director of Strategy for UCSF Health.
Frankie Sandmel (they/them) – Fairy
Frankie is an educator, community organizer and rabbinical student in Boston, MA. They are originally from the Chicago area where they learned to love teaching, Talmud, and teaching Talmud while working and studying at SVARA and the Jewish Enrichment Center. Now on their way to becoming a rabbi, Frankie continues to teach students of all ages, to organize the Jewish community towards justice, and to bake cookies whenever possible.