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Laynie Soloman, 29
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DIVERSITY36 Under 36 2020

Laynie Soloman, 29

Talmud Through a Queer Lens

What you do:

I am the director of national learning and a faculty member at SVARA: A Traditionally Radical Yeshiva. I am a passionate teacher of Jewish text, thought and tradition, and I believe deeply in the power of Talmud study as a healing and liberating spiritual practice. I love facilitating experiences of Jewish learning that uplift the piously irreverent, queer and subversive spirit of rabbinic text and theology, and I have taught and lectured on these topics in various community spaces, campuses and in academic settings. 

Unexpected fun fact:

My favorite movie of all time is “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”

Quote you live by:

“We’re all born naked and the rest is drag.” — RuPaul

How you got here:

In 2013, a strange confluence of events led me to an unknown bet midrash — the living room of Rabbi Benay Lappe, the rosh yeshiva of SVARA — for what was to be a weekend of rigorous Talmud study in queer-normative space. I learned about this event by chance — through a “boosted” Facebook post — and showed up as an eager young learner, on the beginning of my journey into learning and teaching Talmud. After a weekend of learning SVARA-style (with a unique pedagogy honed and shaped by Rabbi Lappe to foster a sense of deep empowerment, transformation and spiritual connection among learners), I was hooked. As a queer person, I never before had seen myself in my teacher, and never imagined that I could take true ownership over the rabbinic project. 

What Jewish source, person, book, etc., has inspired your work?:

As a part of my teaching, I have incorporated the practice of beginning sessions with “dedications,” of naming those we would like to bring into the space, send healing to through our learning or hold in our hearts as we move through the text. This practice anchors our study in a web of relationships, and expands our micro-community in that moment to acknowledge the constellations of humans, communities and beings that brought us to learn in the current moment. Over the past nine months since her passing, I’ve been dedicating my learning to the memory of my favorite person: my bubbe, z”l. A matriarch like no other, her fierce love, sharp humor, deep piety and unwavering care have helped me trust in myself as a leader and a teacher, and her unending curiosity modeled for me what it means to be a lifelong learner.

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