SVARA Fellows are currently enrolled in or have graduated from SVARA’s Teaching Kollel. You can find them in SVARA’s programs fairying, teaching, and learning. You’ll also find them facilitating their own batei midrash in local communities, bringing Talmud to the people, and living & learning Queer Torah in so many ways. Get to know our Fellows below, and sign up for Fairy Hours to connect one on one!
Rabbi Becky Silverstein (he/him) believes in the power of community, Torah, and silliness in transforming the world. He strives to build a Jewish community and world that encourages and allows everyone to live a life that reflects their inherent divinity / dignity. Becky is a Schusterman Fellow, and co-initiator of the Trans Halakha Project. He currently serves as the chair of the boards of SVARA and the Jewish Studio Project. Becky grew up in New York, holds a B.S. in Engineering from Smith College and Rabbinic Ordination from the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College. Becky resides in Jamaica Plain, MA, with his spouse, Naomi Sobel, and kiddo, Edie Gefen, for whom he makes pancakes or waffles almost every Sunday morning.
Rabbi Bronwen Mullin (she/her) (ord. 2017, MA Midrash JTS, BA in Theater and Religious Studies, Sarah Lawrence College) is the rabbi of Carov, an independent mishkan with a mission in Jersey City, and was the first-ever appointed Rabbinic Artist-in-Residence of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. She is the co-founder of Meta-Phys Ed with performance artist/director Jesse Freedman. Rabbi Bronwen has held teaching positions at JTS, The Schechter Institute in Jerusalem, The Academy of Jewish Religion in New York, Art Kibbutz New York (where she also served as Artistic Director), the Romemu Yeshiva, the JCC of Manhattan, and the 14th Street Y.
Selected works include: “Chalom: A Dream Opera” (Hebrew/Aramaic, International Fringe Festival/FringeNYC 2012); “Bat Yiftach: A Tragic Punk Opera” (English/Hebrew, The Kreischer Mansion 2016) and “Ca’asi Revaya: Nigunim For A Raging Heart” (album release Winter 2022). She is deeply proud
and humbled at the same time to be on the faculty of SVARA where she gets to practice fully her most beloved art form—radical Judaism.
Rabbi Dev Noily (they/them) serves as Senior Rabbi at Kehilla Community Synagogue in Oakland, California. Founded in 1984, Kehilla integrates Jewish spiritual practice and progressive activism in deep community. Dev is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia, and has also worked as a chaplain, an educator and a trainer in queer inclusion. Before studying for the rabbinate, they were a lay leader at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco, where they co-founded the house klezmer band Gay iz Mir and helped to develop queer-normative Jewish liturgy. Dev lives in Oakland with their wife Sara Felder and son Jesse Felder Noily.
Rabbi Gray Myrseth (they/them) works as School Director at Kehilla Community Synagogue in Oakland. Gray was ordained by Hebrew College of Newton, MA in June 2017 and has worked as a Jewish educator and congregational leader, an LGBTQ inclusion trainer and consultant, and a chaplain with a focus on the spiritual care of elders. When not at work, Gray can be found studying Talmud, walking their excellent dogs, and reading everything from poetry to YA fantasy.
Rabbi Hayley Goldstein (she/her) is just your average frum, queer, rabbinical student from Minnesota. Though she has studied Talmud in a dozen different settings, she fell in love with Talmud when learning from a queer teacher in a queer beit midrash at Svara’s Queer Talmud Camp in Wisconsin. She is a passionate Jewish educator who’s experiences range from teaching 2nd graders Aleph-Bet Yoga in a Brooklyn classroom, to feeding goats with 7th graders at Ramah of the Rockies in Colorado, to teaching chassidus in the woods to teens, and more. Hayley’s other passions include, but are not limited to: acapella, puppeteering, pottery, cooking, yoga, and her fat, glorious cat, Yossi.
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.
Rabbi Lauren Tuchman (she/her) received rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2018 and is, as far as she is aware, the first blind woman in the world to enter the rabbinate. A sought after speaker, spiritual leader and educator, Rabbi Tuchman has taught at numerous synagogues and other Jewish venues throughout North America and was named to the Jewish Week’s 36 under 36 for her innovative leadership concerning inclusion of Jews with disabilities in all aspects of Jewish life.
Rabbi Micah Buck-Yael (he/him) serves as the Coordinator of Community Chaplaincy with the Jewish Family & Children’s Service, where he works to provide personalized support and meaningful connection for individuals throughout the St. Louis Jewish community. He educates and advocates throughout the community on issues of justice, access, and welcome for the full spectrum of human diversity. He is particularly passionate about work for racial justice, disability justice, and LGBTQ justice. He holds an MA in Talmud and Rabbinic Literature and Rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.
Amir Weg (he/him) moved to Chicago in 2009 after a brief stint hanging out in the Kosher Halal Co-op at Oberlin College. In Summer 2011 he participated in The Adamah Fellowship, a three-month Jewish ecology and leadership program, which nurtured his love of Jewish community, confirmed his interest in Environmental Studies, and gave him a chance to get his hands dirty. In the past few years, Amir has, on and off, worked as an urban farmer, studied Environmental Science at DePaul University, and built Jewish community at Moishe House Rogers Park. Amir has been studying at SVARA since 2013, was SVARA’s 2016 Fellow, and brings insights gained as a SVARA learner to his work.
Earnest Vener (he/they)is a trans Jewish educator in the Boston area. He is in the incoming Director of Congregational Learning at Congregation Dorshei Tzedek in Newton, MA. Earnest is passionate about Jewish storytelling, talmud study, and mentorship. Earnest received an M.A. in Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union and a B.A. in Near Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley. Prior to moving East, Earnest ran an outdoor Jewish religious school in the Oakland Redwoods. Earnest is engaged to Emma Price and they enjoy snuggling with their two cats, studying Torah, playing board games, and working to build a more equitable world.
Elaina Marshalek (she/her) 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) 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.
Julie Batz (she/her) is 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.
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.
SAM Luckey (mix pronouns) is a queer and genderqueer rabbinical student at Hebrew College. In 2013 SAM and Talya Husbands-Hankin co-founded Glitter Kehilla, a community of younger adults of all genders and sexualities doing Jewish and being fabulous. As part of SAM’s rabbinic internship last year at Kehilla Community Synagogue, they also started the monthly ‘Liturgically Traditional, Radically Inclusive’ Kabbalat Shabbat service and SAM helped to launch Kehilla’s initiative for racial justice and de-centering whiteness, the Belonging and Allyship Project. Before starting rabbinical school, SAM was a professional circus performer for over a decade, and they continue to spend several hours a week upside down, in increasingly unlikely handstand positions.
Sara Lynn Newberger (she/her) (BS, University of Illinois; MA, Brandeis University, Hornstein Program in Jewish Communal Service and Education; Jerusalem Fellow) Sara Lynn remembers receiving her first chumash in 3rd grade – and thus was born a love of studying Torah. Born in Chicago, she landed in St. Paul in 1989 where she came to work at the Talmud Torah of St. Paul Day School because the mission and vision resonated with her soul. At TTSP she has had many jobs. Her favorite is what she is doing now, exploring Jewish texts, customs, values and ideas with students. Sara Lynn is the director of TTSP’s Hineni: Adult Jewish Learning and Contemplative Practices. She believes passionately in the importance of Jewish learning and the impact it can have on people’s lives. When not working, Sara Lynn enjoys cooking, visiting with friends, singing, and being outdoors. Sara Lynn is married to Barbie Levine and is Savta to Ruby.
Zissel (זיסל) Piazza (they/them) is a PhD student at UC Berkeley. They study Talmud, Yiddish literature, and queer theory. Their research has gone in many directions, including looking at queer time and inheritance in the Talmud and in Yiddish women’s poetry, and exploring the history of Jewish and Yiddish burlesque and minstrelsy while simultaneously creating a Jewish drag act. Zissel is a Yiddish translator of radical feminist and communist texts and teaches beginning Yiddish at the Workmen’s Circle. They are currently working on a project to compile resources for more accessible and less offensive Yiddish language teaching.
Annie Sommer Kaufman (she/her) teaches sewing, Talmud, and Yiddish; sewing at RefugeeOne, where she manages the sewing studio, Talmud at The Lace Midrash, which grew out of her training as a SVARA learner and teacher, and Yiddish at Chicago’s YIVO and Workers’ Circle. Anye is translating an American communist novel to English with the support of The Yiddish Book Center, and serves on the board of Jewish Voice for Peace.
Arielle Tonkin (she/her) is a queer mixed Moroccan and Ashkenazi Jewish artist, educator, and spiritual director based in so-called Berkeley, CA on Ohlone land. Arielle works to dismantle white supremacy through arts & culture work and Jewish and interfaith education work. Arielle weaves relationships, and materializes conversations: the Muslim-Jewish Arts Fellowship, Arts Jam for Social Change, Tzedek Lab, SVARA, and Atiq: Jewish Maker Insititute are among her networks of accountability, collective power, creative collaboration and care. Arielle’s artwork and social practice presences, queers, and form-alizes the belief that healing through relationship can shift the fabric of social space and eventually, one braided thread at a time, shift the structure of the physical world.
Binya Kóatz (she/they) is a sefardi / ashki / moroccan / argentinean / ukranian / french trans jewish torah-lover, who writes poetry, organizes jewish community and sings and dances with her foremothers. she revels in languages, and can’t *believe* the radical gay anarchist tradition she’s been tasked with carrying forth. originally from the alte heim in Queens, she currently resides on Ohlone Land in the East Bay.
Eliana Mastrangelo (she/her) is a compassionate and skilled community organizer, teacher and trainer. She is studying to be a rabbi at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. Previously, she was a Lead Organizer at Together Colorado, a multi-faith, multi-racial organization committed to placing human dignity and care for creation at the center of public life. Eliana is committed to building the sacred power of organized people fed by a nurturing and agitational Torah.
Jessica Belasco (she/her) is in her third year of rabbinical study at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where she is focusing on midrash and pastoral care, and is a Wexner Graduate Fellow. On her path to rabbinical school, Jess studied in Jerusalem for three years, as well as at Yeshivat Hadar in New York. Her interests include using Jewish sources to facilitate honest conversations about human and spiritual experience and developing disability-informed readings of Jewish text.
Lev Taylor (he/him) is a 3rd year rabbinic student at Leo Baeck College. Prior to training for the rabbinate, he worked in the charity and education sectors. He has been involved in the anarcho-Diasporist group, Jewdas. He lives in London with comrades who include a newborn baby.
noa 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 Rubin-Blose (he/him) is a rabbinical student at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Rooted in Durham, NC, the homelands of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation, he spent the last fifteen years working as a chef, baker, and community organizer. He is a maker of queer ritual, builder of interfaith coalitions, teacher and facilitator, and lifelong student-participant in Southern movements for racial justice. When he’s not teaching or studying, you can probably find him walking by a river or cooking up something tasty in the kitchen.
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.
daph ben david (they/them) is an anarchist diasporic Jew of Eastern European and Arab lineage, born and raised on unceded Kanien’kehá:ka and Anishnaabe territory, so-called Montreal, Quebec. Working as a substitute teacher in the public education system, and an educator with Jewish teens, getting to learn with and from youth is their favourite thing. They love Talmud as a portal through language and non-linear Jewish time, and hold a deep reverence for when learning manifests as holy grief. When not teaching, you can find daph wandering in the forest or running around as a stage manager.
Esther Mack (she/her) loves studying books of all kinds. Although she didn’t know it at the time, she first fell in love with talmud by applying hermeneutics to the Harry Potter books. Many years later, Esther reconnected with the magic of gemara when she came across a SVARA magnet on someone’s refrigerator. She is committed to using the study of Jewish texts and traditions to support local and global movements for liberation. In the great Jewish tradition of diasporism, Esther has lived in over 10 cities on two separate continents; she currently lives on occupied land of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation in Durham, North Carolina, with her rescue dog.
Jorge Sánchez (he/him) was born in Hialeah, a suburb of Miami, Florida, on Tequesta land. He has spent most of his adult life writing poetry and teaching English, helping students own the transformative potential of reading and writing. Jorge discovered the beauty of Talmud in 2016 at a One Night Stand and has been learning with SVARA ever since. When Jorge is not learning Talmud, teaching or writing, he is usually kayaking or outdoors-ing in Chicago on Potawatomi land where he lives with his spouse, Elizabeth Wetmore, and their son.
Kendra Watkins (they/them) is a connector of people and seeks to be a truth-teller and generous human. Through their love of our people, Kendra works to strengthen the relationships of Jews of Color across the Midwest and beyond, by weaving the past, present and future Toraitic tissue between and through us. Kendra’s deep insight, quick wit and compassionate accountability is a gift to the beit midrash anywhere, but especially the Kollel. They currently live in the best and Blackest city in the country, Detroit, Michigan, on Anishinaabe land, where they are building community with Detroit Jews for Justice and nourishing all of us through their liberatory Torah and lots of potlucks. (This bio was lovingly prepared by their chevruta, Koach.)
Koach Baruch (KB) Frazier (he/they), Au.D., brings healing, Torah, and music to the movement and to the beit midrash. An experienced facilitator, educator, and spiritual leader, Koach has taught on the intersections of racism, antisemitism, and white supremacy across the country as a co-founder of Tzedek Lab and lifts up the Torah we all carry in us through Black Trans Torah Club. Koach brings a deep love for tradition and his people to the Kollel, and their learning is guided by a vision of our collective freedom. Koach lives and gardens with their beloved, LaJuana, in Philadelphia on Lenni-Lenape, where he is a rabbinical student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. (This bio was lovingly prepared by his chevruta, Kendra.)
Lonnie Kleinman (she/her) is a rising fifth year student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Originally from Tohomo O’odham land, aka Tucson, AZ, Lonnie is a queer, fat femme. Before moving to Philadelphia, on Lenape Land, Lonnie organized Jewish communities throughout the Southern United States in their journeys to build power and equity for all peoples. She is passionate about relational organizing and pastoral care in dreaming a future together. She loves gathering inspiration for dreaming and living out this world through Talmud study, especially as exemplified in the holy connections of hevruta study. She’s an avid plant mom, rock climber, and embroidery maker.
Maayan Belding-Zidon (she/her) is a rabbinical student at Schechter in Jerusalem. Born and raised on the lands of the Wappinger people in Hyde Park, NY, she has degrees in Modern Middle East Studies (Yale 2013), Talmud and community management (Machon Schechter 2020), and teaching English as a foreign language (Levinsky College 2017). Since moving to Israel in 2016, she has worked at a Bedouin elementary school, as a community coordinator for Masorti communities in Tel Aviv and Rehovot, and as an educator for Jewish young adults doing service in Israel. She lives in Rishon LeZion with her wife, Ronnie, and their three cats.
Olivia Devorah Tucker (they/them) fell in love with Talmud when the local Moishe House asked them to lead a Unicorn themed Shabbat. They couldn’t resist the deep dive into Judaism’s supernatural creatures and have never resurfaced – the books on Jewish myth, magic, and mysticism never make it back to the bookshelf! Olivia sees recovering our ancestral knowledge of angels, demons, dreams interpretation, and the many witchy practices peppered throughout the Talmud, both as exciting gateways to ancient texts and powerful lenses for viewing and healing the world in unconventional ways. A lifelong Pittsburgher (Shawnee land), they take part in vibrant theatre and leftist Jewish organizing, play tabletop role-playing games, collect queer sci-fi comic books, and bake challah inspired by the weekly Torah portion (“All Challahs Are Beautiful”). They always have their eye out for a machmir Bechdel-Wallace Test pass, especially when it comes to Talmud. Olivia puts trans in translation and the femme in ephemera. Stay hydrated!
Xava De Cordova is a disabled, Sefardi, Mizraxi trans woman and co-host of the world’s first Queer Talmud podcast, “Xai, how are you?”. She is a long-time SVARA-style Talmud learner who got her start as a teacher by creating Beit Midrash Behind Bars, an organization that facilitated Jewish learning opportunities for incarcerated people in Washington State. She is also the co-founder of Shel Maala, an online-first queer yeshiva , which she co-founded with SVARA fellow with Binya Koatz. She lives in Providence, RI, where she regularly produces Jewish ritual theatre (or did, before the pandemic) and does her best to steward the radical tradition she’s been blessed to inherit.
Want to learn more about SVARA’s Teaching Kollel and find out how to get in on a future cohort? Write to Laynie!