Talmud Torah of St. Paul

Where critical thinking
and Jewish values intersect

Hineni Faculty

Sara Lynn Newberger (Bachelor of Science, University of Illinois; Master of Arts, Brandeis University, Hornstein Program in Jewish Communal Service and Education; Jerusalem Fellow) is the Director of Hineni.  She moved to St. Paul in 1989 to work at the Talmud Torah’s Day School because the mission and vision resonated with her soul. 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.   In addition to planning programs for Hineni, she is facilitating groups in Jewish Meditation, Torah and Mindfulness, Mussar/Middot, and Contemplative Chanting.  She is teaching the Rhythms of Jewish Living course in the Melton core curriculum.  

Meryll Levine Page has been teaching since 1971. Her career began at the Talmud Torah of St. Paul and moved between the Twin Cities until she began teaching history at St. Louis Park Senior High until her retirement. During her career, she taught Torah, Hebrew language, Jewish History, and English in supplementary Jewish schools, day schools, private schools, and two Minnesota school districts.

Since retiring, Meryll has entered the age of “Yes, I can do that.” She co-authored a nonfiction book with her sister - Jewish Luck: A True Story of Friendship, Deception, and Risky Business, about two Soviet born Jewish women. She is currently producing a weekly web page (www.tastingtorah.com) linking recipes, discussion questions, and tidbits of knowledge to the weekly parasha. After five years as a co-facilitator for the Jewish Artists’ Lab, Meryll is developing curriculum and facilitating an artists' exchange between Rehovot and Minneapolis during 5778.

Meryll is married to Christopher Page and has four children and two grandchildren.

Rabbi Lynn Liberman was ordained from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1993. She has served as Spiritual Leader of congregations in Florida, St. Louis, MO, western Massachusetts, and Austin, Texas and for six years, worked as a congregational educator at Beth Jacob Congregation in Mendota Heights. She has also taught and worked in a variety of educational settings, including as Rabbi in Residence of the Solomon Schechter Day School of St. Louis and is a current Adjunct Lecturer in Judaics at Augsburg College, Minneapolis. Over the years, Rabbi Liberman’s passions as a rabbi have been many. Currently she volunteers as a Police and Fire Chaplain for the Mendota Heights/West St. Paul Police and Fire Departments and is delighted to be on the board as board secretary for J-HAP, a supportive housing program for people with special needs.  In her current work as a Board Certified Chaplain, Rabbi Liberman works for Health East Hospice and is the Community Chaplain for Jewish Family Service of St. Paul. She also serves as a per diem for Regions Hospital, Gillette Children’s Specialty Hospital and Crescent Cove, a Palliative Care and Respite program for children with life threatening illness.

Rabbi Alan Shavit-Lonstein is the founding Director of By The Rivers: A Multi-Faith Learning and Lifecycle Center. He strives to make learning accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds.

He is Associate Chaplain at the University of St Thomas; Rabbi in Residence at the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning and a staff member at Hineni: A Center for Adult Jewish Learning and Contemplative Practices.

He is originally from South Africa, and immigrated with his family to the United States as a young child. He also works at the Apple Store in Ridgedale mall, repairing relationships and iPhones. Rabbi Shavit-Lonstein enjoys running, and has completed several marathons, in addition, he is an avid SciFi fan. He and his wife Becky are blessed with three children, Noah, Naveh and Naomi.

Cantor Audrey Abrams, originally from Rochester, New York, has a B.M. in Music Therapy from Michigan State University and an M.A. in Music Education and Therapy from the University of Minnesota. She received her cantorial certification from Hebrew Union College in 2001. Her work with Beth El began in 1990 when she became Hazzan Sheini for the High Holy Days. At the time she was living in Connecticut with her husband, David, and flew in each year for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In 1995, she and David, with their two then young daughters, Rachel (now 26) and Sally (now 23), moved back to Minneapolis where she took on the job as program director at Beth El. After certification, Cantor Abrams assumed the title of Associate Cantor until Cantor Newman’s retirement in 2007. Cantor Abrams is very involved in the Institute for Jewish Spirituality and believes strongly in contemplative practices elevating one's connections to their Judaism. In her spare time, Cantor Abrams enjoys walks around the lakes, bike rides with David, doing art projects and art classes, movies, traveling and the TWINS!

Earl Schwartz is a master teacher. He is on the religion faculty of Hamline University, and has received Hamline's Faculty Member of the Year and Grimes Teaching awards. He is the author of Moral Development: A Practical Guide for Jewish Teachers, and co-author with Rabbi Barry Cytron of When Life Is In the Balance: Life, along with numerous articles on Jewish history and literature.

Dr. Arie Zmora is a native of Israel and holds a BA and Phil in History and International Relations from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, an M.Phil. in Early French History from Johns Hopkins University, and a PhD in Early Modern European History from the University of Maryland College Park. Arie has taught in leading Israeli high schools: Tichon Hadash, Ohel Shem, and Tichon Herzeliyaa. Since 1994, he has taught as a visiting professor in Minnesota area colleges and universities: The University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Saint Cloud State University, Macalester College, and Hamline University. For the past ten years he has served as a program director of successive Middle East cultural exchange international programs at Hamline University. These programs have been funded by the US Department of State. Over the past two years Arie Has developed a comprehensive curricula on Jewish History  which he has been teaching to  growing numbers of individuals in the community; adults and high school students.  Arie teaches CIS Hebrew in the Midrasha program at Talmud Torah.

Professor Riv-Ellen Prell is a scholar of American Jewry from the late nineteenth century to the present. She is Professor Emerita of the Department of American Studies at the University of Minnesota and immediate past director of the Center for Jewish Studies. She is interested in the ways in which gender, politics, religion, and culture have shaped American Jewish experience. A widely published scholar and committed teacher of many types of students, she is interested in the complex ways that Jews encounter the nation and the globe.

Rabbi Yosi Gordon has been teaching since 1957 and has been teaching at Talmud Torah of St. Paul since 1978. Before joining Talmud Torah of St. Paul, he attended Camp Ramah for fourteen summers, as a camper and staff member, earned degrees at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he graduated as a Rabbi in 1972. Yosi also studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem for three years. Rabbi Gordon worked as Associate and Acting Principal of the Los Angeles Hebrew High School. In 1978 he came to St. Paul, where he directed Talmud Torah of St. Paul for twelve years and helped found Talmud Torah of St. Paul Day School. He taught courses in Jewish studies and literature at the University of Minnesota, St. Olaf College and Hamline University. He has also published textbooks and articles in Hebrew language and Jewish studies and is a winner of a Covenant Award in Jewish education. Yosi served for 20 years as rabbi at Temple Sholom in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where he was known as the Chief Rabbi of the Chippewa Valley. He is now teaching at the Talmud Torah of St. Paul Afternoon School and Midrasha. At Talmud Torah Yosi teaches Torah, Rabbinic literature, Hebrew language and Jewish thought to grades 5-12. In addition to teaching, Yosi is editing a series of nine books by Noam Zion on Talmudic stories about women and participating in a Jewish-Christian-Muslim study group. His Shabbat afternoon Rashi group for Talmud Torah students has been meeting since 1979.


Pam Lauer is a spiritual director who received certification from the Lev Shomea Jewish Spiritual Direction Training program where she was a member of the first cohort in 2001-2003. She also studied Jewish Spiritual Direction with Rabbi Amy Eilberg. Along with seeing individual directees, Pam also leads Interfaith Holy Listening groups and larger group "Interfaith Holy Listening Experiences" in which she uses the tools of group spiritual direction to help participants from different traditions and cultures have an experience of listening and being "heard at a level deeper than dialogue". In the Jewish month of Elul, Pam leads spiritual direction groups focused on the process of heshbon ha-nefesh or "accounting of the soul" in preparation for the Jewish High Holidays, and also teaches a class on the uses of Nonviolent Communication in working toward "at-one-ment" in advance of the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Pam teaches Nonviolent Communication and leads Holy Listening Groups in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Diane Bloomfield is the creator of the Torah Yoga® approach. She teaches throughout Israel, Western Europe, and North America, in person and online. Diane has spent many years learning and teaching Torah, both in yeshivas and privately. Her recent studies focus on the teachings of S'fat Emet, Rav Kook, the Maharal, the Piaseczner, and contemporary Torah masters in Jerusalem.

Diane first studied Kripalu yoga and yoga teacher training at the Kripalu. She then practiced Bikram's yoga for over a decade. She is now a certified Iyengar yoga instructor and continues studying and teaching with senior Iyengar instructors.

She is the author of Torah Yoga. Israel has been her primary residence since 1984, but she also spends time each year with her family in St Paul, MN.

Former Faculty

During the summer of 2014, Debra Rappaport married the love of her life and moved back to her home-town of Minneapolis. For the previous seven years, she served as Rabbi and Executive Director for B’nai Vail Congregation in Vail, Colorado. She received ordination at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia in 2007. After earning her BA at Vassar College, Rabbi Rappaport pursued a business career over the next ten years, in sales, marketing, and management roles, as well as earning an MBA in Marketing from the Wharton School of the University of PA. She currently serves on the Board of Governors for the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Board of Scholars and Advisors for the Vail Leadership Institute.

Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., RYT-500, is a Professor at the University of Minnesota. Her research focuses on the prevention of eating and weight-related problems including eating disorders, unhealthy weight control behaviors, body dissatisfaction and obesity; she has published over 400 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals on these and related topics. She has also written a book for parents entitled, “I’m, Like So Fat! Helping your teen make healthy eating and exercise choices in a weight-obsessed world.” In recent years, Dianne developed an interest in the potential for yoga to help with eating and body image problems. To this end, she became a certified yoga instructor, and now teaches therapeutic yoga to individuals with eating disorders and studies the impact of yoga on eating behaviors, psychological well-being, and weight status.

Cantor Rachel Stock Spilker has served as cantor at Mount Zion since 1997. She currently serves part-time. She grew up in Pittsburgh where she was inspired by her Cantor, Mordechai Heiser. Cantor Spilker received a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from the University of Pittsburgh and a Masters degree in Sacred Music and investiture as cantor from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem and New York. Cantor Spilker enjoys teaching about Judaism and Jewish music to people of all ages through services, special programs and classes. She also likes to explore other areas of Jewish life including yoga and art.  She and Rabbi Spilker have three children, Eiden, Mirit and Liam.


Julie Dean is an experiential educator & professional facilitator who has been guiding participants in personal & spiritual development for 20 years.  Julie is an active member of the Twin Cities Jewish community, facilitating Mussar groups & the Women's Spirituality Group at Mount Zion Temple, drumming for Spirit & Song at Adath Jeshuran & also Shir Tikvah's first Friday Shabbat services, and serving on the Hineini advisory committee.