Getting Started

SVARA’s mission is to teach Talmud through a traditionally radical lens to develop compassionate, critical thinking, courageous humans who work to create a more just, peaceful & healthy world. We are opening Talmud learning up to the 99% of Jews who have been shut out of the bet midrash for two millennia. Folks who are Jewish, folks who are not Jewish, folks who are curious about being Jewish, folks who aren’t sure if they’re Jewish, folks who have been told they aren’t Jewish enough are all welcome at SVARA.

Whether you’ve never heard of the Talmud or you’ve been learning Talmud for your entire life (or anything in between): we’re so glad you’re here. We believe that Talmud study can be a radical, subversive, deep spiritual practice, and can help you fall in love with the Jewish tradition. All of our learning spaces aspire to empower and equip queer and trans folks—along with all who have been de-centered and marginalized in Jewish learning spaces and society at large—to gain the confidence and tools to create new forms of Torah and tradition that emerge when our voices are at the center. You can find information about accessibility at SVARA here. Are you ready to get started?! Read on!


Learn the Alef-Bet

Learning the Hebrew alphabet, the “alef-bet,” is an essential step on your journey to becoming a player, someone who interprets and transforms the tradition for yourself. There are so many reasons that many of us don’t know the alef-bet and it can be a complex, scary, or activating journey to dig in and start learning. We’ve got you. Once each season, we offer an Alef-Bet Basics class, a three-week workshop that will provide you with the tools you need to start learning Talmud with SVARA, in a queer, nurturing learning space. You can find the schedule for Alef-Bet Basics, along with all of our other course offerings, here. 

In addition to this online course, there are several resources below that SVARA-niks have found helpful as they learn the alef-bet independently:

Learning Other Hebrew “Fonts”

There are two different kinds of Hebrew fonts you might want to get familiar with as you learn in the bet midrash: “cursive” (sometimes called “script”) and “Rashi script.” We’ve created this short worksheet to help you practice both! If you’re just learning the alef-bet, don’t worry about getting into these scripts. Take your time, get to know the Hebrew characters, and come back to these fonts when you’re feeling solid with the letters.


Watch the CRASH Talk

In this introductory talk, SVARA’s Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Benay Lappe lays out our philosophy of the Talmud and the rabbinic revolution that gave rise to it–along with important vocabulary and concepts for anyone learning Jewish texts. We will explain where the Talmud came from, why it was written, what its purpose is, and why the study of it has been so important for Judaism and the formation of the Jewish mind. You can join us for a CRASH Talk at the beginning of each season at our New SVARA-nik Orientation, or watch Rabbi Benay Lappe’s ELI Talk, “An Unrecognizable Jewish Future,” below.


Enroll in a Learning Space

Join us for a drop-in session or enroll in a semester-long class!

Join us for a Drop-in Session

  • If you’re new or newer to SVARA, to learning Talmud, or to exploring rad, queer Jewish community, SVARA’s daily drop-in learning space—Mishnah Collective—is a great, low-stakes way to get to know our learning style and community. Each day we explore a small chunk of the Mishnah (the earliest rabbinic compendium of laws, which is full of incredible, deep, and strange wisdom!) for 30 minutes in intergenerational, queer community.
  • Mishnah Collective meets daily, Sunday through Friday, at 1:30 PM ET / 12:30 PM CT / 10:30 AM PT. You can join once, every day, or once in a blue moon! Sign up for Mishnah Collective here or email Ren, SVARA’s Emergent Programs Coordinator, for more information!  

Enroll in ‘Queer Talmud for Beginner’s Mind’

  • Join SVARA for a semester of Queer Talmud goodness specifically designed for folks who are new(er) to SVARA’s approach to Talmud study and want to learn in a queer-normative space!  The learning is rigorous, *and* the bet midrash environment is warm and supportive. We’ll study a section of the Talmud in the *original language* (with no translations!) with a focus on skill-building (learning how to learn), the radical nature of the Jewish tradition, and the cultivation of Talmud study as a spiritual practice. Each weekly session will combine chevruta learning (learning in pairs) and collective unpacking of the text in shiur. This is the perfect entry-point into SVARA learning for folks who have learned their alef-bet and are ready to dig in!
  • Queer Talmud for Beginner’s Mind will be offered in Fall 2021. Enrollment for Fall 2021 will be open later this summer. Stay tuned and enroll here.


Meet with a Fairy

Not sure where to begin? You can connect with a SVARA teacher, what we call “Fairies” (because they fly around to make sure you have everything you need, and they do it with glitter and gay pizazz!), for a one-on-one meeting at this link here


We can’t wait to welcome you to the Queer Talmud Revolution!

Upcoming Programs      Yeshiva Calendar      What You'll Need