What People Are Saying


“SVARA is my home.”

“Honestly, this class gives me hope for the Jewish people.”

“At SVARA, I feel accepted, welcomed, and valued.  My Jewish identity and background is incredibly complex.  As a result, I wind up straddling the worlds of religious Orthodoxy and radical left politics, leaving me feeling unwelcomed and at a loss in many  social, political and religious settings.  SVARA is a place where I find common cause and purpose with a community of learners who don’t care how I dress, pray, or vote.  I am valued for my intellect and curiosity, not for how I cover my hair.  I am finally able to access Talmud for myself–not through the filter of a rabbinic community that I increasingly distrust.  SVARA is radically inclusive community with space at the table for me, and for that I am enormously grateful.”

“You indeed created something that way transcends the intellectual pursuit of knowledge of Talmud.  I am so impressed about how deeply you have touched people. And what is most impressive are those people who did not have prior experience in studying the Talmud. Yours is truly Avodat Kodesh…Thanks for letting me in. I, too, felt the positive vibes and basked in them, and was totally in the present.”

“I never “got” the Jewish texts and have always considered Jews who prioritized Torah and Talmud to be superstitious [and] judgemental… Now I understand something about community and the place of the texts and traditions…in making us a people.”

“It was an honor and a revelation to come to SVARA last night and study under your tutelage. I want to thank you for being so welcoming, so enthusiastic, and so excellent a teacher. And it was wonderful to be welcomed into such a diverse cohort. I loved the study; but as absorbing as it was, I also loved just looking around the room! I have always been a seeker, and rarely (till now) in the intellectual sense. I have always loved writing and teaching, and especially teaching adults. I realized this anew when I saw you work last night. You cultivated a real sense of “beginner’s mind” in everyone — even those who’d studied with you for a long time. Adults sometimes come to study with strong biases and preconceptions, but when they come with a beginner’s mind, it’s a miracle. Beginner’s mind is the most precious commodity in spiritual life and study, I think. These were people who wanted what you offered, wanted to work collaboratively rather than compete, and thirsted for a way into a tradition that had seemed closed to them.”

 “Studying Talmud has been so important to my Jewish journey.”

“I study TALMUD now! I never thought I would say that, ever. Like, it’s a point of pride for me in how unique I am. I worked on a farm, I worked in a zoo, I’ve been to India, I used to weld metal, and I study TALMUD. I guess that’s me as a person, but also me as a Jew, it’s amazing to connect with text for, literally the first time in my life, ever. And, I couldn’t do it in any other setting.

“I feel my throat choking up right now, because this class, Rabbi Lappe, my chevruta, Mary and Lizzi have all completely changed the scope of Judaism as a practice for me. I’ve longed for a place where I can engage with text and feel spiritual, but honor my values and be in the company of people that either share my world view, or challenge me to be more open minded – versus less.”

“I’m not going to pretend that, after spending 2 1/2 hours a week for six weeks on Talmud, I am a born-again Jew. My journey with Judaism is long and complex, and I feel like I will have to do many Svara sessions before I really feel steeped in familiarity with Talmud. This was my first session and I am still a beginner. I feel like I shape so much of my Jewish identity around the abstract question of ‘what does it mean to be a Jew?’ Many of my readings and thoughts are secular. I am a spiritual agnostic with a love of Jewish philosophy. I strongly identify culturally, intellectually, spiritually as a Jew. I enjoy fighting for social justice, and for justice in Palestine, as a Jew. But it’s very valuable to actually put all this abstract ‘self-identity’ work aside for awhile and just study Talmud like my bubbe’s bubbe would want me to!”

“Studying Talmud has been so important to my Jewish journey. It makes it possible for me to live in a world with so much suffering and understand how I can be a thoughtful part of that world without being overwhelmed by it. It is an important part of my ability to decide how to live a good life, and to be part of the community that I love, and to honor the divine.”

“Being part of this learning community gave me hope for and excitement about the future of the Jewish people, which are great motivators in the work that I do. More personally, the fact that it was in a queer space where acceptance of all sexual orientations was celebrated was affecting and healing for me. It also made me more committed to raising the bar for inclusiveness in my own community.”

Before SVARA, I’d never touched or studied Talmud at all. I love engaging with Talmud in a serious way, but with a radical perspective. And by extension, I can engage with Judaism on a deeper, intellectual level while building a sense of spirituality (thinking of Talmud study as a spiritual practice) and community (feeling yet closer to my Mishkan community through this learning arm).”

“Rabbi Lappe is an INCREDIBLE teacher!”

“Rabbi Lappe is a deeply engrossing, intelligent, lively and dynamic teacher. She doesn’t force her opinions on you, she listens, she draws out what you are trying to say and expands on it; she is charismatic, drawing in anecdotes and asides from her personal life in a way that is down-to-earth and genuine. You can tell that she is deeply connected to this work and it excites your desire to learn all the more! I couldn’t ask for a better teacher. If the teacher was boring I wouldn’t come!”

“Rabbi Lappe was a powerful teacher because she really seemed vested in our learning. One of the main reasons I didn’t attempt Talmud before was that I feared that my lack of knowledge was prohibitive for the teacher. Rabbi Lappe, on the other hand, was truly embracing of all ideas and inputs and never made me feel that my background was inferior throughout the course.

“Rabbi Lappe is such an inspiring teacher. Her passion and warmth are infectious and she is demanding but supportive of students. She has given me a whole new experience of intrinsic motivation. And in bringing so much of herself and her experiences to the class, Rabbi Lappe has shown me how studying Talmud can be a way of opening space for the divine and letting the practice interact with whatever I have going on when I come into class. Also, she makes Talmud feel fun, and relevant, and important.”

“Rabbi Lappe is an INCREDIBLE teacher! She truly understands the art of pedagogy, and has a remarkable handle on Talmud…inspiring to study from her.”

“While I appreciate many facets of this class– the other people, the text chosen, my chevruta relationship, etc.– what really makes this experience and what keeps me coming back is Rabbi Lappe— her approach, wisdom, charisma, teaching style, and love of this work. She inspires me to learn, and she’s from where I glean my greatest insights about the material.”

“I felt empowered by the experience of struggling with the text with my chevruta.”

“There were times when I felt behind and struggled to wrap my head around the experience but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. That was excellent – that the level was high and expectations were high and we had to jump in there and figure things out – that worked for me to get acclimated, even though struggle was involved. THAT’s a GOOD thing. GOOD that it was challenging.”

“I felt empowered by the experience of struggling with the text with my chevruta, rather than being just given the ‘answer.'”

I LOVED my chevruta! I was a bit nervous about such a new experience, but Katie was so welcoming and just downright AWESOME! With as all over the place as my language experience is, I was nothing less than amazed that my partner not only has languages that back up to sketchy Russian, but at how equal our language skills were. I don’t think I can imagine enjoying studying with anyone else more. :)”