Hineni: Adult Jewish Learning & Contemplative Practices

Hineni Faculty

Rabbi Debra Rappaport, Director of Hineni

Rabbi Debra Rappaport served as Rabbi for Lifelong Learning & Engagement at Shir Tikvah from early 2015 through late 2021, during which there were many joyful collaborations with Hineni. She is currently a co-chair of the MN Rabbinical Association and represents the Reconstructionist Movement in Hazon’s Climate Leadership Coalition.

R’ Rappaport grew up in the western suburbs of Minneapolis, active at Temple Israel & Camp Teko. Her first career included work in sales, marketing, and change management and earning an MBA. She was ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia in 2007. A lifelong love of the mountains led her to B’nai Vail Congregation in Colorado, where she served as Rabbi & Executive Director for seven years. Since 2010, she has been actively engaged with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality’s mindfulness learning and practice. In 2014, R’ Rappaport moved back to Minneapolis to be with her beloved, Bobby Zelle, and near both of their families.

R’ Rappaport finds great joy in Jewish learning in small communities, in which the texts and prayers of our tradition – as well as the people in the room – form the foundation of connected, meaningful living in the present. Her Hineni offerings have included Mussar (Everyday Holiness, Tikkun Middot, Mussar for Leadership, and Omer Mussar) Shlemut: Jewish Visions for Living Fully, Authentically and with Purpose, Faith in the Fog; Feeling Grief, Finding Love: a Tisha B’Av program for climate grief, Wise Aging, and Jewish Voices for the Earth.


Sara Lynn Newberger, Founding Director of Hineni

Sara Lynn Newberger (BS, University of Illinois; MA, Brandeis University, Hornstein Program in Jewish Communal Service and Jewish Education; Jerusalem Fellow; SVARA Fellow)

Sara Lynn remembers receiving her first chumash (volume of Torah) in 3rd grade – and thus was born a life-long 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 Sara Lynn has had many jobs. She served as the Director of Hineni from its inception in 2014 to 2022. Her favorite role is what she is doing now, exploring Jewish texts, customs, values, and ideas with students. She believes passionately in the importance of Jewish learning and the impact it can have on people’s lives. Sara Lynn has recently begun to explore, both in her own learning and teaching, areas of Jewish mindfulness and spirituality, as well as Talmud.

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.


Susie Chalom, Director of Afternoon School & Midrasha

Susie Chalom has been teaching in the Twin Cities community since 1970, when she taught Hebrew language and Torah at Talmud Torah of Minneapolis. She trained in Linguistics/Second Language Acquisition and Literature at Tel Aviv University and since then has studied many other subjects always in search of deepening and expanding her knowledge of all Jewish topics. She has trained at Melton Bible Training, Gratz College, the Wizen Institute at American Jewish U, the Shalom Hartman Institute and Pardes in Jerusalem and is a fellow at the Institute for Jewish Spirituality.

After serving Adath Jeshurun for 27 years as Education Director, Susie was appointed Executive Director of the Talmud Torah of Minneapolis. She served in that position for ten years until retirement in 2016.

Susie strongly believes that an excellent Jewish education in one’s teen years is one of the most important factors in one making Jewish decisions in adult life. Quality high school Jewish education also strengthens a Jewish community by providing enlightened leadership and educators in the future.

She is very excited to join Talmud Torah St Paul as the new Director of the Afternoon school and the Midrasha and is looking forward to applying her dedication, creativity and commitment to excellence to the Afternoon School and to the Midrasha.


Earl Schwartz

Earl Schwartz is retired from the Hamline University religion department. He is the author of numerous books and articles on Jewish life and education, including The Arc of the Covenant: Jewish Educational Success on the Upper Mississippi, a study of Jewish communal education in St. Paul.

Rabbi David Thomas 130

Rabbi David Thomas

Rabbi David Thomas recently retired from his role as senior rabbi at Congregation Beth El in Sudbury, MA after 17 years. Rabbi Thomas launched the award-winning MetroWest Free Medical Program and is known for his social action and racial justice initiatives as well as leading his congregation to a vote declaring a Sanctuary in Support of Immigrants in 2017. Drawn to study of the Hasidic masters, David’s teaching is engaging and participatory.

David received a BA in Biblical Hebrew from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1979. For fourteen years he pursued a career in broadcast journalism as a sound engineer, living in Israel, England and the United States. In 1993, David answered a lifelong call to be a rabbi. He earned his MA in Hebrew Literature in 1997 and was ordained a rabbi at HUC-JIR in New York in 1998. A student of rituals and how they effect life transitions, he wrote his rabbinic thesis on “Rites of Passage and the Rabbinic tradition.”

Rabbi Thomas is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute and has served as a board member for the CCAR and is currently co-chair of the Joint Commission on Rabbinic Mentoring. David recently moved to Minneapolis, MN to spend more time with his grandchildren. He remains active in rabbinic life by mentoring colleagues and teaching in the vibrant Jewish community of the Twin Cities.

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