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.
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. Before that, in Israel, she taught English in the IDF to pilots who were preparing to be trained in the United States.
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.
Her love for Torah Study was ignited at the Melton Bible Training for teachers at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires and studying online with Gratz College Masters in Jewish Studies program, her knowledge of Torah, Talmud, Midrash and Halacha was deepened at Whizen Institute, American Jewish U, and at summers spent at Pardes Yeshiva, the Conservative Yeshiva and the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.
Her spiritual life was impacted and enriched at the Jewish Spirituality Institute after a two year course for teen educators. She has since then become a member of the JSI Hevraya.
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.
After spending that first summer as a retired teacher, Susie rejoined the TT of Minneapolis to teach a Torah class she had designed with one of the teachers who unfortunately, passed away unexpectedly, before school started. She has remained at TT Mpls until this past year, teaching 5th and 6th grade Torah, Tanach and Jewish studies.
One of her greatest passions has been Jewish High school education. She strongly believes that an excellent Jewish education in one’s teen years is one of the most important factors in making Jewish decisions in adult life. High school Jewish education also strengthens a Jewish community’s foundation by providing enlightened leadership and educators in the future.
During her tenure as Head of School at TT Minneapolis, Susie brought transformative changes to the Bet Midrash fostering innovative programs such as HaZamir, the Adopt a Survivor Program, the Israel Fellowship program in collaboration with the JCRC and Jewish Krav Mega and many other innovative classes.
Susie is currently teaching the Hebrew classes for adults at Hineini and often teaches Parshat HaShavua adult classes at Adath Jeshurun.
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.
Beyond her professional life, Susie is a proud mother to Allon and Orlee Tatarka and takes immense pride in her role as “Sassa” to Stella, Caleb and Asher.
She is really enjoying her “retirement”!
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
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.