SWESRS takes a radical look at the Talmud

By Charles Hutchins

A NEW adult study group exploring radical readings of the rabbinic text of the Talmud has begun at South West Essex and Settlement Reform Synagogue (SWESRS)

The free, weekly drop-in Mishnah Shiur offer students the opportunity to translate and interpret the Talmud.

These classes follow on from the Queer Yeshiva summer scheme, a programme of rigorous, inclusive learning through an LGBTQI+ positive lens.

Rabbi Lev Taylor of SWESRS, who leads the sessions, is eager to welcome everyone. “It’s the method that’s queer, not necessarily the people,” he explained.

On a recent Sunday, LGBTQI+ people were in the majority, with many saying the sessions had offered them a chance to connect with Jewish tradition and practice.

“It’s opening up my eyes to a text I’d only peripherally heard of,” said class member Elischa.

Members of the class said drawing on their own lives and experiences gave them unique insights to find queer and radical readings.

Their re-interpretation of an ancient tradition is something the group see reflected in the Talmud itself.

“What is the Mishnah?” Rabbi Lev asked the class before they broke into small groups.

After some discussion of context, the class came to a consensus that it’s a democratising reinterpretation of the Torah and something they can bring into their lives and Jewish practice.

“I’m rediscovering Torah and approaching it in a new way!” said student Yael.

• The classes take place every Sunday at SWESRS. Minchah prayers are at 2pm, followed by classes from 3pm-5pm.

Rabbi Lev Taylor



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