Queer Talmud for Beginner’s Mind

a weekly deep-dive into traditionally radical Talmud with SVARA

Section 1: Mondays, April 19th – June 7th*
6:00 – 8:00 PM ET | 5:00 – 7:00 PM PM CT | 3:00 – 5:00 PM PT

Section 2: Tuesdays, April 20th – June 8th*
8:00 – 10:00 PM ET | 7:00 –  9:00 PM CT | 5:00 – 7:00 PM PT

* Note: There will be no class on May 17th or 18th because of Shavuot.


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. Students are strongly encouraged to bring their real-life experiences to bear on the text and to share openly in a space that models queer culture and radical inclusion.

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.

All you need in order to participate is the ability to sound out your alef-bet, and you’ll be reading from the daf (directly from the page of Talmud) in no time! If you’re still working on your alef-bet, check out these resources to support your learning! If you’ve never learned with SVARA before and are new to traditionally radical Talmud study, this learning experience is for you!

About this learning space:

This learning space is for folks who:

  • have never learned Talmud before (with SVARA or otherwise!)
  • want to explore Talmud study in a queer-normative learning space
  • can sound out the letters of their alef-bet
  • are excited to work hard in a rigorous, joyful, supportive learning space
  • are committed to joining for all sessions

More Information About Queer Talmud for Beginner’s Mind

I don’t have a chevruta (partner) to learn with!

We will pair you up with a partner in advance of the first session!

I’ve never done this before. I don’t think I can do it!

While all texts are studied in the original Hebrew/Aramaic from the Vilna Shas (traditional printing of the Talmud), no prior text experience is necessary. The requirements for the class are (1) your ability to merely sound out (even without comprehension) the alef-bet, (2) to have your text, dictionaries, attendance at all sessions, (3) and your willingness to work hard. If you’re willing to try, we’ll help you succeed!

What if I can’t make all the classes in a session?

This is an eight-week class. While unforeseen circumstances do arise, it is important that you plan to be at all eight sessions. Each week builds on the work of the previous week, and students who miss a week will find it extremely difficult to catch up and participate fully. In addition, your chevruta depends on you for their learning as well!

We are also trying to create an intimate community of learners, and consistency is important in developing such a community. If you are not able to make this sort of commitment at this time, that’s okay! Let us know and we’ll help you find other ways to learn with SVARA!

What will I need for this class?

Before our first session, you’ll be provided with a volume of the tractate of Talmud that we will be learning–a masechet. If you have your own unvocalized, unpunctuated, untranslated volume of the Vilna Shas and do not need one from us, please let us know on your registration form.

There are also two dictionaries necessary for doing the work of this bet midrash:

  • A “Jastrow”—Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud Bavli, Talmud Yerushalmi and Midrashic Literature, by Marcus Jastrow; and
  • A “Frank”—Practical Talmud Dictionary, by Yitzhak Frank

These are great dictionaries for any and all future Talmud study (with SVARA or elsewhere). If you’re having trouble finding the Jastrow Dictionary, you can order one directly from the publisher here or from your local Jewish bookstore.

If purchasing dictionaries is beyond your means, please be in touch with James!

Beyond these, we’ll send you everything you need to learn with us!

Registration & Cost:

We will be admitting registrants on a rolling basis. You should expect to hear from us within three business days based upon the receipt of your registration.

Tuition for Queer Talmud for Beginners’ Mind is offered on a sliding scale of $175–$500.  


Your Teaching Team:

Bet Midrash Faculty

Julie Batz (she/her) – SVARA Fellow 

Julie is a Fellow in the SVARA Teaching Kollel and a spiritual leader and educator serving the Bay Area Jewish community. Together, she and Maggid Jhos Singer are the Congregational Leaders of Chochmat HaLev, a center for Jewish spirituality in Berkeley where in addition to co-designing and leading engaging, musical, and inspiring services, she provides pastoral counseling, teaches adult education classes, mentors musical service leaders, and officiates congregants’ lifecycle events. In addition to her congregational work, Julie’s bnei mitzvah training and facilitation practice serves independent Jewish families, offering them the opportunity to (re)connect Jewishly in their families and the larger Jewish community. She extends particular welcome those who have felt themselves in the margins: families new to Jewish ritual, kids with learning differences, multi-faith families, queer families, and families of all configurations.


Section 1

noah ilana (she/they) is a community facilitator, trauma worker, ritual leader, writer, street medic, atypical femme currently living on traditional and unceded Kanien’kehá:ka territory. Her approach to the Teaching Kollel is bound up in a commitment to honour a covenant of radically just, diasporic Judaism, and a deep desire to uplift the holiness in the struggle. They are excited to be part of the sacred tradition of queering text, and are particularly interested in upholding the Torah of Deaf and disabled people. noah co-creates holy space and time in the ever-growing kehillah of which she is part and understands the work of being a Talmud community organizer as one which necessitates right relationship with all those also building liberation for all. When not learning/teaching, they can often be found davenning outside, climbing trees, playing music in the streets, and running (though hopefully not late for beit midrash).

Noah Westreich (he/him) is a rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Prior to studying for the rabbinate, he worked and lived in Washington, DC and Jackson, MS, where he served the Jewish communities of those regions. In DC, he also served specialty coffee and developed a yoga practice. Originally from Montclair, NJ, Noah has always had a thirst for world languages and as such has become a competent speaker of Spanish, German, and Hebrew. He graduated from Macalester College with a degree in Sociology; his senior thesis explored the sociolinguistic theory of Hebrew education in American Jewry.



Section 2

Maggid Jhos Singer (he/him) is a professional Jewish educator, community and congregational leader, writer, and speaker. He is an out transman, a parent, spouse, mixologist and skillful home chef. He relishes his time spent in Jewish text study, hiking, and facilitating spiritual experiences for his flock and students.




Sarit Cantor (they/them) is a community builder, artist, ritual leader, grief tender, prison abolitionist, off-the-derech femme. They are approaching the Teaching Kollel with a commitment to weave justice work with the work of the sacred. They see the Talmud as a direct connection to ancestral conversations that inform so much of what it means to be a diasporic Jew and they are excited to bring a thriving relationship with these holy texts into their life’s work. Sarit currently lives in Tkaronto/Toronto, Canada, where they write, teach, organize, pray, study, conspire & dream toward our collective liberation.