September 12, 2017
“Lab/Shul describes itself as an “everybody friendly, artist-driven, God-optional, pop-up Jewish community, based in NYC, reaching the world.” It is part of the Jewish Emergent Network, a group of young congregations that share “a devotion to revitalizing the field of Jewish engagement, a commitment to approaches both traditionally rooted and creative, and a demonstrated success in attracting unaffiliated and disengaged Jews to a rich and meaningful Jewish practice.” Led by Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie, an additional rabbi and an ensemble of musicians and actors. The Torah service is generally “Storahtelling”-style, with a dramatic interpretation of the text.”
July 28, 2017
“Earlier this week, our colleague Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie resigned from the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly over his decision to perform intermarriages, as part of a larger initiative to embrace the non-Jews within his community. He is in good company.” -Rabbis of the Jewish Emergent Network
July 20, 2017
“Last month, it was Conservative Jewry’s turn. Two prominent rabbis, trained at the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary and members of the movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, announced they would begin to perform intermarriages.
Rabbi Roly Matalon of B’nai Jeshurun in New York and Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie of New York’s Lab/Shul both decided to break with the movement’s long-held prohibition on intermarriage.” -Rob Eshman, the Jewish Journal
July 16, 2017
“‘For some people, this is really a matter of their livelihood, so people are hesitating for very good reasons to say, ‘I’m in,’’ said Lau-Lavie. That’s why he hasn’t yet resigned from the Rabbinical Assembly: He wants to push a conversation. ‘It’s not to our best advantage to keep on delaying serious consideration of this,’ he said. But ‘I’m aware of the level of sadness and animosity … Change ain’t simple.'” -Emma Green, The Atlantic
July 14, 2017
“Chaplin, 33, encourages people to show up in solidarity for anyone who feels oppressed by the Trump administration. In an effort to make sure people stay in the movement for the long-term, Lab/Shul has created #ResistBurnout, a weekly phone call where participants are led in a 15 minute meditation and inspirational story.” -Amy Oringel, The Forward
July 9, 2017
“The charismatic Israeli-born Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie, who runs the innovative Lab/Shul, said he would officiate at intermarriages — despite his ordination from the Conservative movement, which forbids rabbis from doing so.” – Sam Kestenbaum, The Forward
July 7, 2017
“Rabbi Lau-Lavie broke with the Rabbinical Assembly when he agreed to marry a Jew (Mr. Paley Ellison) and a non-Jew (Mr. Campbell). He said that he thought carefully before agreeing to marry the men, who wore robes and skullcaps, stood under a huppah and performed the ceremonial breaking of glass once they were legally married.”- Tammy la Gorce, NY Times
June 25, 2017
June 23, 2017
“A boundary-pushing, dragwearing spiritual leader for decades, Lau-Lavie has pioneered inclusive, progressive paths to Judaism through programs that combine theater and art with religious teachings.” – Anna Davies, NY Post
June 20, 2017
“I get the fear of the fluid. And I respect it. And yet here we are. And I am where I am as a rabbi because the fluid has honored my dignity as someone who is not in the hetero-sexual-biblical model of what’s kosher and what’s traif. And so it is for my friends who are women Rabbis.” – Rabbi Amichai
June 14, 2017
“A popular and dynamic Israeli-born rabbi, educator, writer and performance artist, Rabbi Lau-Lavie, 48, was scheduled to announce his decision to his hip, downtown Lab/Shul NYC community this week (as we go to press) and seek its support. He planned to explain how and why he came to believe that in an age of fluid and multiple identities, two people’s love for each other, be they straight or gay, and their shared interest in being part of “a Jewish spiritual community” outweighs the classification of the religion into which they were born.” – Gary Rosenblatt
June 9, 2017
“Into this mix comes Amichai Lau-Lavie, an entrepreneurial, boundary-breaking rabbi with a radical proposal to welcome the non-Jew under the Conservative wedding canopy. The result of a year of deep thought, study and conversation, his proposal — which he intends to soon unveil publicly — will surely be the subject of praise, skepticism and some derision.”[…]
June 4, 2017
“Lau-Lavie and other Conservative rabbis are pushing for more change. Their activism represents one instance of how queer leadership is pushing the movement to modify its approach on a range of issues, including the study of Torah, the place of intermarried families and how synagogues are run.” […]
May 1, 2017
The seeds of tomorrow’s trends in Judaism are being sown by young rebellious Jews,” Dr. Sarna adds, “finding new ways to express themselves as Jews in the American setting.” […]
April 22, 2017
“Through Shira Kline’s eco-music for kids, she is creating budding environmentalists. ‘I introduce children to nature through imaginative, creative play,” she said. “Imagine what it’s really like to be a tree, a mountain, the bright shining sun, to have peace like a river and love like a rainbow. Eco-music can be a spiritual practice for young children, a way of understanding that they are part of something much larger,’ said Kline.”[…]
April 10, 2017
“Freedom’s Feast: Innovative spiritual community Lab/Shul welcomes Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Zen Buddhist leaders to lead this inspiring gathering. While musicians and artists perform, you’ll be called to action by contemporary interpretations of ancient texts.”[…]
March 29, 2017
“The overnight tent city demonstration was the centerpiece of “City of Refuge,” a 24-hour program of actions protesting abuse and discrimination against refugees both in the U.S. and abroad. Organized by numerous citywide groups, Tuesday’s actions included education workshops, a demonstration outside the Wall Street Trump building, and an outdoor candlelight vigil at Trinity, where demonstrators held battery-powered tea lights and listened as clergy members read aloud the names of scores of refugees who had recently lost their lives while searching for a new home.”[…]
March 13, 2017
“On Saturday night I was at the Lab/Shul Compassion Plays Party. It was our first annual Book of Ester performance festival, with my congregation who know me well — but who are also among the most liberal of liberal Jews in New York.”[…]
December 7, 2016
“Moments like the election aftermath highlight how the network can provide a religious home for those seeking a more “relevant” Judaism, said Chaplin. Her former experience as the director of Jewish life at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie schooled her in “radical inclusion,” an approach that now inspires her outreach efforts at Lab/Shul.”[…]
December 1, 2016
Black or white. Yes or no. In or out. Right or wrong. That’s binary thinking. It’s comfortable, it’s often convenient, it sometimes works. But it doesn’t work as well as it used to. It’s the way the Jewish world traditionally has approached intermarriage. It’s bad. If you do it, you’re out. The problem — or, that is, one problem — is that we no longer have the luxury of that approach.[…]
November 22, 2016
“A rabbi under the huppah may boost Jewish engagement in intermarried homes,” according to a study released this past month by the Brandeis University Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies.
That’s welcome new data but no news for us, two New York-area rabbis trained at the Jewish Theological Seminary who have each made personal and professional sacrifices in seeking to find alternatives to the movement’s ban on rabbis officiating at intermarriages. But the findings do reinforce what our guts have been telling us for a long time: the moment for serious communal deliberation and decision is now. With intermarriage rates outside the Orthodox community as high as 71 percent according to the 2013 Pew study, for the American Jewish community this is a pressing priority today.[…]
November 10, 2016
“Some of the gatherings were interfaith. New York City’s Lab/Shul, led by Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie, participated in a “public pray-in” with Protestant ministers and others in Manhattan’s Washington Square Park Wednesday afternoon. The event, which was organized by Auburn Theological Seminary, “was super powerful,” said Lau-Lavie. Lab/Shul, like other congregations, is also planning meetings on Shabbat at which members can process their feelings.”[…]
October 11, 2016
“These communities appeal to people, like me, who are not interested in conventional religious practice and affiliation, but are not ‘nones’ (the growing share of individuals who are unaffiliated with any organized religion). By adapting and transforming Jewish ritual and tradition, these groups appeal to the scores of people who want something in between: those of us who are looking for ‘some.'”[…]
October 06, 2016
“Part of the joys of being a pop-up shul is having the flexibility to help support and grow emerging Jewish communities across NYC. Proud to have done just that over the High Holy Days with our special family friendly Rosh Hashanah worship event, led by Naomi Less at the brand new JCC Harlem.”[…]
September 30, 2016
“Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie, founder and leader of the Lab/Shul community in New York City, talks about the necessary spiritual and mental preparations to undertake in advance of the Jewish High Holy Days (October 2-12), from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur. The rabbi holds a boot camp filled with workshops, food, and music to encourage introspection, repentance, honesty, and reconnection.”[…]
September 02, 2016
“What role do art and artists play in contemporary Judaism? Amichai Lau-Lavie, founder, Executive Director, and Spiritual Director of Lab/Shul, joins Dan and Lex to kick off a unit of episodes exploring that question in detail. He speaks about his own experiences leading an artist-driven community, and he takes on a variety of related questions on issues ranging from technology, to pluralism, to literature, and more.”[…]
July 29, 2016
“Rabbi Benny Lau, one of Israel’s leading Modern Orthodox leaders, sits for a shared interview with his younger brother, the newly ordained Conservative Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie. They share similar concerns, different challenges, and very different perspectives on some of the hottest topics and challenges facing modern Jewry. The interview, by Zvika Klein, is in Makor Rishon, one of Israel’s leading newspapers widely read in Orthodox circles.”
June 3, 2016
“On May 31, 2016, Amichai Lau-Lavie posed for a photo at the Israeli President’s official residence in Jerusalem. Some 26 years earlier he had stood in the exact same spot, as a 21-year-old IDF paratrooper in an honor guard for Israel’s 42nd Independence Day.
For Lau-Lavie, the photo was highly symbolic. It signified the journey he has been on since 1990. Back then he was a closeted homosexual Orthodox Israeli Jew. Today he returned to the President’s Residence Tuesday an openly gay, newly-ordained Conservative rabbi and admired spiritual leader in the American Jewish community.
Lau-Lavie was joined at the President’s Residence by 104 fellow delegates to an LGBTQ mission organized by the Jewish Federations of North America. They were there to meet with President Reuven Rivlin, who gave them a warm welcome.”[…]
May 17, 2016
“In fact, for almost two decades Lau-Lavie has been on the vanguard of creative, progressive Jewish spiritual and ritual expression in the 21st century. He has taught Torah and other Jewish texts at hundreds, if not thousands, of congregations and schools through his innovative Storahtelling Jewish ritual theater organization. Founded by Lau-Lavie in 1999, Storahtelling advanced Jewish literacy by bringing performance tools and stagecraft to bear on traditional texts.”[…]
May 15, 2016
“I’ve known Amichai for 10 years, and he continues to grow as a brilliant and empathetic leader, first of StorahTelling and then of Lab/Shul. He truly cares about each individual in his flock and seems to have limitless love and attention for everyone. He uses his own feelings, perceptions and life experiences to understand what others need.”[…]
February 8, 2016
“People in the network are simply doing R&D in the trenches,” said Amichai Lau-Lavie, the director of Lab/Shul, a 3-year-old “everybody-friendly” and “God-optional” community that drew more than 2,000 people to High Holiday services last year. “I think by the nature of things, the seminaries will catch up. The seminaries will always be behind people in the trenches.”[…]
February 5, 2016
“What can Judaism and Jewish tradition teach us about love and intimacy? Our own Seth Cohen asked Israel-born educator, writer and performer Amichai Lau-Lavie, who talked sex and relationships at Rekindle: A Shabbat Studio last month, to tell us. The founding director of Storahtelling and the founder of Lab/Shul, a New York City-based initiative focused on exploring experimental and progressive ways to create Jewish spiritual community, Lau-Lavie was hailed by Time Out New York as “Super Star of David” and by the New York Jewish Week as “one of the most interesting thinkers in the Jewish world.” A rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Lau-Lavie is a consultant to the Reboot Network and a member of the URJ Faculty Team. He is Abba to Alice, Ezra, and Charlotte-Hallel.”[…]
January 29, 2016
“The stories from next generations are not just about the past, or even just about the memory and legacy of the Holocaust as an isolated event. The other big question, Lau-Lavie says, is about ‘the moral and ethical questions we take with us… How to translate this stark legacy into courage and real moral behavior.’”[…]
January 25, 2016
“Lab/shul, where party and davening are merging, and where – perhaps for the first time in my life – I felt I could bring any friends, acquaintances or relatives to be part of it, without feeling out of place!”
We are humbled to be the feature of a new article for the international MAROM Journal, Rebelling Through davening? Lab/Shul, a Gesamtkunstwerk of T’fillah, written by Eszter Susán. Her personal and honest reflection on the importance of our work is truly an honor, an exciting kick of inspiration to keep working hard for anyone and everyone – from NYC to Budapest.[…]
November 23, 2015
For a few quiet days in July 2014, I was laying in a hammock on a Brazilian beach, planning a year’s worth of Shmita study and action that will rebrand this ancient sustainability practice rooted in the Land of Israel for new digital generations all over the world.
Hovering between earth and sky provided the perfect setting to what I was designing: An adaptation of the Sabbatical Year concept beyond its original halakhic, geographical and agricultural settings so that it will prove useful and meaningful to so many more of us.[…]
October 22, 2015
“And the Lab/Shul Jewish community in New York City recently adopted the BYOG approach. A note from the community’s leader, Amichai Lau-Lavie, explained that they are committed to “replacing the baggage-laden word ‘God’ with several other names and prisms that enable us to better connect with and describe the inherently indescribable.” ”[…]
September 21, 2015
Well, probably not your mother’s Judaism, so to speak. Lab/Shul describes itself as “an everybody-friendly, artist-driven, experimental community for sacred Jewish gatherings,” and the result is worship services heavy on music and performance where people can explore life’s big questions, regardless of where they fall on any religious or spiritual spectrum. Dedicated to “exploring, creating and celebrating innovative opportunities for contemplation, life cycle rituals, the arts, life-long learning and social justice,” Lab/Shul creates sacred gatherings that aim to nourish people’s thirst for meaning, connection, spirituality and community.
When they say “everybody-friendly”, they mean it: traditionalist, Judaism-curious, members of other faiths, agnostics, atheists, LGBTQ people are all welcome at Lab/Shul.[…]
September 16, 2015
All 583 seats of the Academy of Medicine’s E. 103rd St. auditorium were filled for Rosh Hashanah. Plenty of worshipers from Downtown (the physical home of Lab/Shul) — including from the Lower East Side, the Village and Tribeca — made the trek, as did congregants from the Upper West and East Sides, Long Island, Queens and New Jersey. One regular flies from Sante Fe each year to take part.[…]
September 16, 2015
At Lab/Shul, the experimental, artist-driven community in Lower Manhattan that attracts 20- and 30-somethings, services begin with a convincing “pitch” and networking, said Ezra Bookman, program associate. Happy hour at a bar last week served as the first introduction for potential service-goers, he said. The pre-holiday mixer attracted about 35 people.
“It is infinitely more likely they’ll attend services if they have a friend to go with,” said Bookman, 25. “There’s nothing more intimidating than walking into a service and not knowing anyone.”
At the services themselves, which will be held for the first time this year at the New York Academy of Medicine on the Upper East Side, several changes to the liturgy and a focus on embracing those of different faiths keeps millennials coming, said Bookman. All traces of patriarchal, hierarchical and hetero-normative language, including the classing art/thou, He, and even the word God, have been removed. […]
September 30, 2014
Elastic City is a series of “participatory walks” — not tours — created five years ago by artist Todd Shalom. Shalom, 37, said the walks are more “experience-based” than tours, which are “fact-based.” Different artists host the walks, which aim to give participants a “new perspective on place, form and community.” […]
Walks so far have included “Let It Go: A Tashlich Walk,” which draws on an ancient Jewish ritual of walking toward a body of water as a way to start fresh in the new year. Shalom said the walk is hosted by Amichai Lau-Levie, who performs drag and is carrying on his family’s nearly 40 generation tradition to become a rabbi, and Shawn Shafner, an artist who explores waste and our relationship to it. The Tuesday night walk started in Hell’s Kitchen, and participants walked to the Hudson River, where they casted off an item or clothing or utensil.
Shalom said the ceremony is a way to “physically and mentally clear our minds in such a gorgeous way.”
September 23, 2014
For a progressive arts-based High High Holidays there’s LabShul whose tagline says it all: “Everybody Friendly. God Optional.” Services are led by Rabbi Amichai-Lau Lavie, founder of Storahtelling and will feature musicians David Broza, Shira Kline and Netanel Goldberg among others. The event is produced with Brice Rosenbloom of Boom Collective whose upcoming shows include Patti Smith, a J Dilla Birthday celebration, Man Man and the Winter Jazz Festival.
September 18, 2014
Formerly known as Storahtelling, this shul is indeed a type of laboratory: for unique Jewish worship. For its theatrical High Holidays services, Lab/Shul enlists performers, musicians, playwrights and other artists to dramatize Torah readings from the Hebrew Bible and bring the holidays alive.
July 22, 2014
March 14, 2014
At a rock club on the edge of SoHo on a recent Saturday, Amichai Lau-Lavie stood in front of two musicians and a set of video screens, bringing a message about counterculture…
The gathering was the monthly Sabbath service of Lab/Shul, an experimental pop-up synagogue that is still in what Mr. Lau-Lavie calls its beta phase.
Read the rest of the article here.
March 1, 2014
Check out this great article about innovations of Jewish spiritual life and cultural creativity all over the US. Lab/Shul and Amichai were two of the main highlights – alongside Rabbi Sharon Brous and Ikar in LA. Click here.
September 14, 2013
The cutting edge is at LabShul, a lay-led group that will host 1,000 people at a Tribeca arts center this weekend for Yom Kippur. The entire service will be, as it has been for seven years, projected on large screens. Images will include paintings of God by LabShul children, layered with verses of scripture. Pictures of stained glass windows will flash on the screens. LabShul is led by Israeli-born actor and rabbinical student Amichai Lau-Lavie, whose uncle was the chief rabbi of Israel and who unplugs from calls and e-mails each Sabbath. He talks and writes about what prayer was like before the creation of books, before people’s hands and eyes were focused on the page. “We have to be sophisticated consumers of technology, to see what violates our sacred space and time and what doesn’t,” he said this week. “I expect no less of Judaism at thousands of years old to come up with creative solutions, and it’s happening right now; we’re in the middle of it.”
Read the entire article here.
September 14, 2013
September 13, 2013
“I was once of the opinion it should be free for everybody, before I realized that if it’s free for everybody, then some people are underwriting everyone else.”
So Lab/Shul started a crowdfunding campaign on the Internet. People paid to reserve seats for services at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, but their fees sponsored 100 free seats for others.
Read the rest of the article here.
September 4, 2013
Amichai Lau-Lavie’s Lab/Shul will lead Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services in a 1,000-seat college theater in lower Manhattan — with liturgy projected on the walls and accompanied by musicians David Broza, Neshama Carlebach and Shira Kline.
These new pop-up options — similar to the “mushroom synagogues” populating the Lower East Side a century ago — are creating tension with some synagogue leaders, who see the efforts as siphoning off a population that they, too, are trying to attract and bring in to year-round, dues-paying congregational engagement.
And while it may appear to be a new phenomenon, it actually goes back a century.
Hundreds of independent High Holy Day services happened in Yiddish theaters, social halls and bars in Manhattan between 1901 and 1934, according to Rabbi Dan Judson, who works as the director of professional development and placement at Hebrew College, a rabbinical seminary in Boston. He is also the faculty expert on synagogue finances at the Union for Reform Judaism.
Read the rest of it here.