There are lots of ways to plug into learning at your fave traditionally radical yeshiva. Below you’ll find the information about our upcoming Spring Zman (“season”). The classes below are multi-week classes where you can get introduced to the Alef-Bet, learn Talmud with various multi-level options (including for absolute beginners!), and explore different areas of Jewish life and practice. If you’re looking for a drop-in learning space, check out what we’re cooking up all year round here.
Below is a list of multi-week courses at SVARA for the upcoming Spring Zman, which runs from Feb. 13-Apr. 7. Click the title for a fuller course description. Enrollment goes live in early December.
SVARA’s enrollment follows a multi-step process:
Through this enrollment process, we maintain a significant majority of queer- and trans-identifying people in each program, and we prioritize the participation of people of color and people with disabilities. Questions? Email James!
Questions? Email James!
Sunday, Jan. 23 | ENROLL NOW
Crash Talk: 12:00-2:00 PM ET | 11:00-1:00 PM CT | 9:00-11:00 AM PT
Bet Midrash: 3:00-5:00 PM ET | 2:00-4:00 PM CT | 12:00-2:00 PM PT
Taught by Rabbi Benay Lappe
How can learning ancient Jewish texts help us create a more liberated world? In the CRASH talk, we’ll explore the radical and queer history of the Talmud, Judaism’s foundational text, and discuss how it can help us understand and navigate moments of disruptive change in society and our own lives.
After a break, we’ll dive right into a text and put the theory into practice. Whether you’ve never learned Talmud before or you’re an advanced learner, SVARA’s bet midrash (learning community) is for you! All you need is the ability to decode your alef-bet (i.e. sound out your Hebrew letters), and you’ll be learning Talmud in the original Hebrew/Aramaic within your first hour. We guarantee it!
This course is “pay-what-you-can,” with a suggested sliding scale of $36-$180. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.
Tuesdays, Feb. 15-Mar. 15 | 6:00-7:30 PM ET | 5:00-6:30 PM CT | 3:00-4:30 PM PT | 5 sessions
Taught by Ren Finkel
Alef-Bet Basics will be a five-week dive into the Hebrew alphabet! This class will get you prepped and ready to go for your future SVARA experiences, as we learn the Hebrew letters and vocalizations. As always, this space will be fun and queer-normative as we navigate the delights and frustrations of learning the building-blocks of a language. We’ll give you all the tools you need to boost this beautiful new skill during the class and beyond! In our final session, we’ll put our decoding skills to use and learn how to start learning Talmud together! (Please note that this isn’t a Hebrew grammar or vocabulary class, we’ll be sticking just to letters and vocalizations.)
Join SVARA for some 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 classroom 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. In both sections, 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 (full group discussion).
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 or join us for Alef-Bet Basics this spring! If you’ve never learned with SVARA before and are new to traditionally radical Talmud study, this learning experience is for you!
Mondays, Feb. 14-Apr. 4 | 8:00-10:00 PM ET | 7:00-9:00 PM CT | 5:00-7:00 PM PT | Feb. 14-Apr. 4 | 8 sessions
Taught by Julie Batz
Tuesdays, Feb. 15-Apr. 5 | 6:00-8:00 PM ET | 5:00-7:00 PM CT | 3:00-5:00 PM PT | Feb. 15-Apr. 5 | 8 sessions
Taught by Rabbi Mónica Gomery
In the Mixed-Level Bet Midrash, you’ll learn core texts from SVARA’s library that show how the Rabbis upgrade the tradition they’ve been given—so that we can do the same!—and explore the tensions that arise when they, and we, pursue radical change. This learning space is for anyone, from beginners to advanced Talmudists, and will provide learners with the scaffolding and tools to be challenged at their own learning level in a rigorous and supportive environment. Each weekly session will combine chevruta learning (learning in pairs) and collective unpacking of the text in shiur (full group discussion).
Taught by Rabbi Becky Silverstein
What happens when we put our most ideal systems to the test and the system breaks down? In this sugya (Talmudic text), we’ll see what the Rabbis do as they attempt to live out the Shmita (“Sabbatical”) year, a year for debt forgiveness and the redistribution of land (which we’re currently in!). Our learning will highlight the multiple paths the Rabbis take to create and shape new laws, and reveal the ways in which the living out of our ideals requires going Option 3 and overturning the Torah.
Taught by Rabbi Bronwen Mullin
This fave SVARA sugya (Talmudic text) explores what it takes to be a judge and a leader—at SVARA, we call those folks “players.” What kind of person can be trusted to shape a legal system or lead a community? What are the attributes of a powerful, deeply Jewish leader in the minds of the rabbis? And what are the limits of how we, as players, imagine a future based on the past(s) we’ve inherited?
*Note: This bet midrash will run for the first four weeks of the Spring Zman, from Feb. 15-Mar. 8. SVARA-niks may take this along with Chacham Adif MiNavi or as a standalone course.
Taught by Rabbi Bronwen Mullin
After the destruction of the Temple, the Rabbis created a new form of Judaism that is both continuous with the past and radically reimagined. What is the role of ‘prophecy’ in the Rabbi’s Option 3 world? Watch the Rabbis glitter up our conception of divine inspiration, creating new ways of revealing sacred wisdom and inviting us to do the same.
*Note: This bet midrash will run for the last four weeks of the Spring Zman, from Mar.15-Apr. 5. SVARA-niks may take this along with Letaher et Hasheretz or as a standalone course
Taught by Rabbi Benay Lappe
How do we live in relation to the Torah when, at first read, the implications feel antithetical to our most basic values? In this shiur, we’ll look at how the Rabbis grapple with and use their svara to respond to and subvert the impact of Ben Sorer U’moreh, that infamous Torah text about the rebellious son that is sentenced to death. We’ll then explore the implications of their approach for us today, as we roll up our sleeves to bring a new set of queer, lefty, and radical values and sensibilities to the tradition.
Mondays, Feb. 14-Apr. 4 | 8:00-9:30 PM ET | 7:00-8:30 PM CT | 5:00-6:30 PM PT | 8 sessions
Taught by Elaina Marshalek
Experienced & advanced learning at SVARA is not about covering more—it’s about going deeper. Get ready to go deep, and take your learning to the next level with a weekly shiur that will focus on rigorous attention to details and radical attunement to letters and historical layers. You’ll be expected to prepare in chevruta for 1.5-2 hours in advance of our weekly shiur. This shiur is for serious, dedicated learners who have experience learning with SVARA, are very comfortable with SVARA’s method & approach to Talmud study, and are ready to maintain or significantly deepen their practice of learning with a chevruta. We strongly encourage you to sign up with a chevruta, and can provide chevruta matching as needed.
About the text: This sugya explores the ways in which emotions shape our practice using the case study of destroying items and tearing garments on Shabbat in times of mourning. In this text, we’ll see how the Rabbis codify feelings, giving weight to human emotions and experiences in the halakhic system as a powerful source of truth. As we learn, we’ll build our ability to follow Talmudic back-and-forth (“shakla ve’tarya”) and track the multi-layered moves of the stamma.
Note: This class will be discussing mourning and death. Please reach out to [email protected] if you’d like to check in on the content before the course
Wednesdays, Feb. 16-Mar. 30 (skip Purim, Mar. 16) | 6:00-7:30 PM ET | 6 sessions
Taught by Laynie Soloman
Halakha—Jewish practice and its surrounding discourse—is a dynamic, counter-cultural, and rebellious tool for sacred world-building. In this course, we’ll unpack philosophies of halakha and bring them into conversation with our queer experiences. Along the way, we’ll aim to deepen our understanding of what halakha is, how it works, and how we can (re)claim it in our lives.
Thursdays, Feb. 17-March 31 (skip Purim, Mar. 17) | 4:00-5:30 PM ET | 3:00-4:30 PM CT | 1:00-2:30 PM PT | 6 sessions
Taught by Rabbi Elliot Kukla
In this six-week class we will examine a number of core concepts in oral and written Torah through a disabled lens. Topics will include: creation in the Divine image, shabbat, mourning and remembrance, and more. We will explore classical Jewish texts in dialogue with the writing of contemporary (mostly BIPOC) Disability Justice thinkers like Patricia Berne, Alice Wong, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, and Talila Lewis. “Cripping” is a word that refers to looking at a subject through a disabled lens. It is similar to the concept of “queering” a text. You don’t have to be disabled to “crip” the Torah: you just have to be open to the idea of upending dominant narratives of the body/mind. All are welcome. No background knowledge or beliefs are required for this class. Texts will be in English translation. Closed Captioning and frequent breaks are provided; other access needs will be accommodated as needed.
Rabbi Elliot Kukla (he/they) is a rabbi, chaplain, author, artist, and activist. His writing appears in many places including The Forward, The Body is Not an Apology, and regularly in The New York Times and Sunday Review. He was the first openly transgender rabbi ordained by a denomination in Judaism, Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, in 2006. Elliot was a rabbi at the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center from 2008 to 2021 where he co-directed Kol Hanshama, the multiple award-winning volunteer spiritual care hospice program (in collaboration with the San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living). He is currently the founder and director of the Communal Loss and Adaption Project (a project of Svara). He is a visual artist with Sins Invalid, the political arts and education group that helped create the Disability Justice movement in the early 2000s, and he is active with a number of other BIPOC led Disability Justice groups. He lives on Oholone Land (otherwise known as Oakland, CA) with his partner, their kid, chosen family, two Boston Terriers, a cat named Turkey, and a few hundred house plants.