Halakha Beyond the Binary

by Laynie Soloman, Associate Rosh Yeshiva “Halakha is so rigid!” “Judaism is all about binaries.” “In Jewish tradition, it’s either one or the other.” I often hear these claims in Jewish spaces, and they reveal an assumption that non-binary thinking is discordant with our tradition.  Somewhere, somehow, a very successful public relations campaign promoting binary […]

Finding Our Way

by Maggid Jhos Singer, SVARA Fellow and Founder of QueerCore Talmud JCCSF I grew up on a scrappy strip of Southern California beach. As a kid in the 1960s, I spent hours on end walking up and down the boardwalk.  On a warm and sunny day around 1968, my 10ish-year-old self was skipping along that […]

Halakha as Communal Practice: Launching the Teshuva-Writing Collective

by Rabbi Becky Silverstein and Laynie Soloman, co-Directors of the Trans Halakha Project Halakha is all about questions: What’s the blessing to be said in response to this particular experience? What counts as “taste”? When does evening truly begin? And ultimately, how can I express myself authentically through sacred Jewish language? Asking questions and developing […]

Finding Strength at the Edge of Understanding

by Elaina Marshalek, Director of Programs & SVARA Fellow I was easily in the bottom of the class in my graduate engineering program. I remember one seminar-style class in particular where we’d rotate reviewing and sharing academic papers of mathematical proofs. We worked in pairs. My partner and I, comrades at the bottom, spent hours […]

Unlocking the Language of the Universe

by R’ Hayley Goldstein, SVARA Fellow It was a freezing, albeit sunny, Ithaca day. I had invited members of my community to brave the January cold to learn about wild foraging in honor of Tu b’Shvat. I couldn’t feel my toes so I ripped open a couple of hand-warming packs, shook them vigorously to get […]

Celebrating a Gemara-versary

by Laynie Soloman, Associate Rosh Yeshiva For me and Talmud, it was love at first sight. Like Yentl, I remember walking through a crowded room of learners that was loud and buzzing with a sense of organized chaos. I sat at the table, across from my chevruta, opened up the masechet that I had purchased […]

The Lineage of Pushing Toward Bolder Reads

by Elaina Marshalek, SVARA Fellow & Director of Programs At SVARA, we know that we are players. That means it is our role to take the skills of the rabbis— their bold, creative, drash-filled tools—to interpret our text (and our life) toward a more just and liberatory world. And yet, all too often, when I […]

The Torah of Care

by Ayana Morse, Executive Director It’s not uncommon in meetings on Team SVARA for someone to say at some point, “There are no Talmud emergencies.” Usually, it’s in reference to shifting timelines for a project or to ease away from imagined urgency. It tends to bring about a good chuckle. But just as underneath that […]

Retraining Our Guts

a conversation with Scholar-in-Residence Devin Samuels & Associate Rosh Yeshiva Laynie Soloman This fall, SVARA welcomed Devin Samuels as our Scholar-in-Residence, who taught “Svara Off the Page: A Toolkit for Refining Our Guts.” The class utilized Devin’s expertise as a writer and creative to explore the concept of svara and encouraged participants to develop their […]

Call Me By Your Baraita

by R’ Bronwen Mullin, SVARA Faculty Who knew that reciting a baraita—one of the bits of text in the Talmud from the Tannaim, the Rabbis of the Mishnah—from memory could be so radically transformative. First off, it’s just a baraita—a teaching conceived by our rabbinic ancestors that didn’t even make it into the Mishnah. Second, […]