Lab/Shul Staff

Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie is the Founding Spiritual Leader of Lab/Shul NYC and the creator of Storahtelling, Inc. An Israeli-born Jewish educator, writer, and performance artist, he received his rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 2016.

Rabbi Amichai is a member of the Global Justice Fellowship of the American Jewish World Service, a founding member of the Jewish Emergent Network, a consultant to the Reboot Network, a member of the URJ Faculty Team and the Advisory Council of ORAM, an LGBT focused organization for refugees, asylum and migration. He was a Jerusalem Fellow at the Mandel Leadership Institute in Israel (2008-2009) and serves on the advisory committee of Faith House Manhattan.

Rabbi Amichai has been hailed as “an iconoclastic mystic” by Time Out New York, a “rock star” by the New York Times, a “Judaic Pied Piper” by the Denver Westword, a “maverick spiritual leader” by The Times of Israel and “one of the most interesting thinkers in the Jewish world” by the Jewish Week. In 2016 The Forward named him one of the thirty-two “Most Inspiring Rabbis” in America, and in 2017 he was top five on “The Forward 50,” their annual list of the most influential and accomplished Jews in America.

In June 2017 Rabbi Amichai published the JOY Proposal, offering a new response to the reality of Intermarriage and taking on a personal position on this issue, including his resignation from the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative Movement.

E-mail Rabbi Amichai at [email protected]

Sarah Sokolic, Executive Director, is a community leader, educator and award-winning actor whose 20+ year career spans both the private and public sectors as well as the performing arts. Sarah joined Storahtelling in 2004 as a member of the company of artists, and soon after took on the position of Associate Executive Director which she held until 2009. Prior to Storahtelling Sarah has spent more than a decade designing and delivering professional and organizational development programs for Fortune 500 companies, investment banks and management consulting firms. She also consulted with camps, schools and synagogues on education programs and has guided dozens of families through the B Mitzvah process. In 2009 Sarah joined Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County as Director of Admissions, and spent eight years there as a senior administrator focused on increasing enrollment and retention rates, elevating marketing initiatives, and improving the overall customer experience for more than 350 families from a diverse range of backgrounds. She holds an M.A. in Organizational Psychology from Teachers College Columbia University and a B.A. in Sociology and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University. Sarah is a lifelong Ramahnik and serves on the Executive Board of Camp Ramah in the Berkshires. Sarah lives with her husband, Jeremy, and three children in New York City.

E-mail Sarah at [email protected]l.org.

Naomi Less, Founding Ritual Leader and Associate Director, is a Brooklyn-based,internationally celebrated singer/songwriter, ritual worship leader, musician and experiential educator. Circling the globe with her half-Israeli,half-American music ensemble, Naomi shares stylistically diverse original music–from spiritual ballads to high-octane, celebratory rock. Through her deep passion for ritual, education and worship in 2000 Naomi connected with Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie and began her Storahtelling and then Lab/Shul journey as a founding Storahtelling company member, Director of Education and Training and now, as a founding Lab/Shul ritual leader and Associate Director.

In her other time, Naomi runs music programming for youth including her signature initiatitives: Jewish Chicks Rockand Jewish Kids Rock band programs. She is an activist, volunteer and consultant for causes such as Bring Back Our Girls NY; Uprooted: A Jewish Response to Fertility Journeys; Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls and other causes that promotes the safety, development and empowerment of young girls around the world. Much of this work is in collaboration with other passionate leaders of different faith.

Naomi received training in spiritual leadership, music, facilitation/training and education from the following educational institutions: Northwestern University, Jewish Theological Seminary Davidson School, Institute for Informal Jewish Education at Brandeis University, Institute for Jewish Spirituality, ChangeCraft (formerly Center for Leadership Initiatives). You can hear Naomi’s music on YouTube, Soundcloud and NaomiLess.com.

E-mail Naomi at [email protected]

Shira Kline, Founding Ritual Leader, Director of Worship and Family Education Director, is an internationally acclaimed, award winning performing artist recognized as a “revolutionary educator” and named one of the “new re-engineers of Jewish life.” A co-founder of both Storahtelling and Lab/Shul, she is the Director of Worship at Lab/Shul, NYC and works with young families here as the Director of Family Education.

On the road, Shira works with a diverse array of Jewish communities to enliven rituals, holiday celebrations, and love for Jewish life and prayer. The product of a modern rabbi and a modern dancer, she blends words, story and music to create a rich experience for children and adults alike. Shira works with national organizations across the denominational spectrum facilitating professional development seminars on creative worship for clergy, educators, seminary students and lay leaders. She is on the faculty of Hava Nashira as well as adjunct faculty for the HUC-JIR Debbie Friedman School for Sacred Music. Shira tours extensively performing for families, adults, and teens in the United States, stages in Israel, England, Italy, Australia and New Zealand. Her award winning Jewish kiddie rock albums along with her “Blog Sameach” are featured worldwide.

E-mail Shira at [email protected]

Rabbi Kerry Chaplin, Jewish Emergent Network Rabbinic Fellow, is the first Rabbinic Fellow of Lab/Shul. At the core of Kerry’s rabbinate is relationship, which inspires her to work towards a world in which truth and empathy shall kiss and justice and peace shall meet (Psalm 85, 11). That work is anchored in intersectional spirituality, in which our greatest socio-political inequities inform our religious identities and practices, help us to become more of who we are, and drive us to shape a more whole world. Through projects like Two Faiths One Prayer, Talmud + Yoga, and Jewishness and Race workshops, Kerry encourages others to bring all of who they are to Torah and Torah to all the pieces of who they are. Kerry was ordained by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in 2015 and received both a B.A. in Religious Studies and an M.A. in Non-Profit Management from Washington University in St. Louis. She’s a community organizer, a yoga teacher, a former rugby player, and lives with her wife Julia, her cats Louie and Izzy, and her dog Charlie (Chaplin).

E-mail Kerry at [email protected]

Sarah Strnad, Operations Manager, joins the Lab/Shul team as a seasoned Jewish non-profit professional, previously serving as Assistant Director of Partners for Progressive Israel (formerly Meretz USA), Director of Operations at Kolot Chayeinu, and an Event Planning Consultant at Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ). Sarah has a B.A. in Jewish Studies, Hebrew, and Political Science from Indiana University in Bloomington, and a M.A. in International Human Rights from the Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. She lives in Brooklyn with her wife Rachel and their Goldendoodle Charley.

E-mail Sarah at [email protected]

Ezra Bookman, Artistic Director, is proud to be originating the position for Lab/Shul after serving as their Program Associate for nearly three years. Ezra is a director, poet, performance artist, and ritualist, exploring the overlapping space between artistic and transformational spiritual experiences. He has created, directed, and produced numerous ritual arts and culture festivals on behalf of Lab/Shul, including ComPassion Plays and NINE: A Night to Remember; co-lead the project to retranslate Hebrew prayers into modern God-optional poetry; and written, directed, and performed ritual-theater interpretations of Biblical stories as a Storahtelling Maven. Directing credits include three world premiers: Anthropology of a Book Club (Manhattan Repertory Theater) and Interim (SMU’s Margo Jones Theater) by Barbara Casssidy, and Mahal by Danny Bernardo (Assistant Director – Bailiwick Chicago). Devised or co-written performance credits include Pr[essence] (Art Kibbutz Shmita Art Fest), Our Last Night on Earth (Collaboraction), The Will Power Project: Alice Underground Interim (SMU’s Margo Jones Theater). Ezra earned his B.F.A in Theater Studies at Southern Methodist University under the guidance of Stan Wojewodski, where he was awarded the prestigious Meadows Scholar Award. He used the award’s microgrant to train with Shamans in Ecuador, Columbia, and Venezuela.

E-mail Ezra at [email protected]

Hillary Robbins, Program Director for Raising the Bar, joins the Lab/Shul community dedicated to empowering young people in their path to autonomous meaning-making. Hillary approaches her work of supporting the ritual journeys and change-making power of Lab/Shul’s young folk informed by her experience as the Impact and Community Engagement Specialist at DoSomething.org – the largest tech organization for young people and social change. She holds a Masters in Social Work from New York University, and a Bachelor of Arts with Distinction in Psychology and Women Studies from the University of Washington where she focused her honors thesis on the promotion of resilience in young people exposed to domestic violence. Hillary is a seasoned yogi (RYT-200 from Kula Yoga Project, NYC) and passionate animal rescuer. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband Andy, their two rabbits Sandwich and Apple, and chiweenie Murray.

E-mail Hillary at [email protected]

Jason Erick Taylor is Lab/Shul’s graphics, design, and Communications Guru. After graduating from the University of Central Arkansas with a B.A. in Mass Communications and minor in Business Administration, he moved to Austin, TX to help establish a production company, and later worked as the Communications Coordinator for Interfaith Action of Central Texas. While in Austin, he studied for five years with Laurel Vouvray at In The Moment Acting Studio and performed in several local films. Today, he continues to pursue his life goal of making the world better through his passion for the art of acting and design.

E-mail Jason at [email protected] and see more of his work at Zason.net.


 

Lab/Shul Board of Directors

Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie

IMG_4917Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie is the founding spiritual leader of Lab/Shul NYC and the creator of Storahtelling, Inc. An Israeli-born Jewish educator, writer, and performance artist, he received his rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 2016.

Rabbi Amichai is a member of the Global Justice Fellowship of the American Jewish World Service, a founding member of the Jewish Emergent Network, a consultant to the Reboot Network, a member of the URJ Faculty Team and the Advisory Council of ORAM, an LGBT focused organization for refugees, asylum and migration. He was a Jerusalem Fellow at the Mandel Leadership Institute in Israel (2008-2009) and serves on the advisory committee of Faith House Manhattan.

Rabbi Amichai has been hailed as “an iconoclastic mystic” by Time Out New York, a “rock star” by the New York Times, a “Judaic Pied Piper” by the Denver Westword, a “maverick spiritual leader” by The Times of Israel and “one of the most interesting thinkers in the Jewish world” by the Jewish Week. In 2016 The Forward named him one of the thirty-two “Most Inspiring Rabbis” in America, and in 2017 he was top five on “The Forward 50,” their annual list of the most influential and accomplished Jews in America.

In June 2017 Rabbi Amichai published the JOY Proposal, offering a new response to the reality of Intermarriage and taking on a personal position on this issue, including his resignation from the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative Movement.

E-mail Rabbi Amichai at [email protected]

Andrew Kassoy

andrew kassoyAndrew Kassoy is the Co-Founder of B Lab, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to build a global movement to redefine success in business so that all companies compete not just to be best in the world, but best for the world, creating a shared and durable prosperity for all. Before leaving the private sector to form B Lab, Andrew spent 16 years in the private equity industry. Andrew is a Board Member of Echoing Green, a member of the U.S. working group of the G8 Social Impact Task Force, and on the Forbes Impact 30 list of leading social entrepreneurs. Andrew lives in New York City with his wife and two sons.

Craig Kanarick

craig kanarickCraig Kanarick is an accomplished and recognized thought leader, executive, entrepreneur, and digital technology expert. He is best-known for co-founding Razorfish and serving as its Chairman, Chief Scientist and Chief Strategic Officer for seven years. Craig is currently the CEO of New York Mouth, the leading online indie food marketplace. Craig met Amichai 12 years ago as an original member of ReBoot, an organization that engages and inspires young, Jewishly-unconnected cultural creatives, innovators and thought-leaders in generating projects that impact both the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds. He and his family have been long-time attendees of the Lab/Shul LabShul High Holiday services. Craig lives with his wife and two children in downtown NYC.

Franny Silverman

Franny Silverman is a creator of theater, ritual, and experiential Jewish learning opportunities for humans of all ages. She is a founding company member of Storahtelling and served as Associate Artistic Director from 2003-2009. Franny is currently the Director of Learning and Action for the independent, progressive synagogue, Kolot Chayeinu, where she oversees the congregational school and supports anti-racist efforts and Israel/Palestine programming. Franny has been a fellow with the UJA-Federation Ruskay Institute for Jewish Professional Leadership and LABA Artist fellowship. Franny facilitates conversations across differences with Resetting the Table, officiates tailor-made life-cycle rituals, and, as an actor, has appeared on stages across the country. She lives in Brooklyn with her two favorite humans.

Jen Pehr

jen pehrJen Pehr is the City Design Practice Manager at Skidmore, Owings & Merril (SOM). With master’s degrees in both Urban Planning and Public Health from Columbia University, Jen has also done work in Africa for AJWS and the U.N.’s Millennium Cities Initiative and in India for the nonprofit Seva Mandir as well as serving as the former Associate Principal at Kohn, Pedersen, Fox. Jen has sat on critic juries for graduate design and architecture students at Columbia, Harvard, Cornell, and several other schools. She spent many years volunteering for Right Rides for Women’s Safety and has served three years on the steering committee for Opening Act, an afterschool theater program in NYC’s public schools. Jennifer lives in Harlem with her husband Jon, a founding company member of Storahtelling and Lab/Shul.

Jeremy Sokolic

jeremy sokolicJeremy Sokolic (Treasurer) is a software entrepreneur. He has spent the last 15 years at software companies in product management, marketing, and business development roles, including an 8 year stint at CashEdge, which was acquired by FiServ. Prior to CashEdge he was a consultant with McKinsey & Company. Mr. Sokolic received an MBA from Columbia Business School and a BS in Economics from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union, New Jersey (GOA) and also studied at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem.

Jon Silvan

jon silvanJon Silvan is a Founding Partner and CEO of Global Strategy Group, one of the nation’s top public affairs firms. Jon lives with his family in Tribeca, and has been an active leader in the downtown Jewish community for many years. He also serves as an advisory board member of Camp Kinderland and on the Steering Committee for the Association for a Better NY (ABNY).

Karen Pratt

karen prattKaren Pratt spent a majority of her career in the financial services industry, including running a hedge fund and helping to mainstream socially responsible investing. Having transitioned to non-profit management and fundraising in 2010, she currently serves as Major Gifts Officer for Fountain House, a not-for-profit organization established and operated by men and women living with mental illness. Karen holds an MBA from Simmons Graduate School of Management in Boston, and a B.A. in English from Smith College. Karen lives in Little Italy with her wife, Liz Hirsch, also a Lab/Shul Board member. They have two sons, Ben Loomis and Louie Lopez. Karen also serves as a board member of The Phoenix Collective.

Joyce Zinbarg Rosenthal

Joyce Zinbarg Rosenthal is a LCSW working with students from kindergarten through high school. She holds a B.S. in Family and Community Services from Syracuse University and a graduate degree in Social Work from Columbia University. Prior professional experience includes working in day treatment programs for adults coping with chronic mental illness and substance abuse and time as the Assistant National Director of Development for Medical Development for Israel responsible for fundraising and event planning. Joyce was a founding member of New Israel Fund’s New Generations and a volunteer at the 14th Street Y where she initiated and organized activities between the seniors and the nursery school children. Joyce was first a fan then a board member of Storahtelling for many years. She lives in Manhattan with her husband Steven Rosenthal and their three daughters, Rebecca, Talia and Shira.

Liz Hirsch

liz hirschLiz Hirsch has extensive background in education leadership positions and currently serves as Director of the 14th Street Y Preschool, Sol Goldman Y, and Educational Alliance. Liz holds an M.S. in Educational Leadership from Bank Street College of Education in NYC, and a B.S in Early Childhood Education from Wheelock College in Boston. Liz has already served as an active leader in Lab/Shul, helping to reshape the High Holiday children’s programming. Liz lives in Little Italy with her wife, Karen Pratt, also a new Lab/Shul Board member. They have two sons, Ben Loomis and Louie Lopez.

Marina Pinto-Kaufman

marina pinto-kaufamnMarina Pinto-Kaufman (Past Chair) was born in Casablanca, Morocco. She went to the Universite de Geneve, Interpreter’s school and graduated in 1964. She worked for 28 years as a free-lance conference interpreter, for the United Nations in Geneva and then in New York. She serves on the Board of Human Rights Watch and is one of the founders of the Human Rights Watch film festival. She has also served on the Board of B’nai Jeshurun since 1997. Marina is an active Co-Chair and generous steward, convening and hosting events frequently, and bringing many new friends and donors to Lab/Shul and now Lab/Shul. In particular, Marina’s work chairing Lab/Shul’s first-ever gala, the World-Premiere of “Becoming Israel,” was instrumental to the event’s unprecedented success.

Michael Dorf

michael dorgMichael Dorf (Chair) has become one of the most prolific independent promoters in New York and main presenter of music in “downtown” New York. Michael Dorf Presents has produced hundreds of concerts including the Music Downtown Series, Music of Series at Carnegie Hall, The Annual New York Jewish Music & Heritage Festival, Jewzapalooza, the “Downtown Seder”, as well as several significant private corporate events. Dorf has also gotten very involved in several philanthropic ventures including the creation of a Tribeca Hebrew, an after-school program in Lower Manhattan, where he served as the founding Chairman and developed the school to 150 children before it merged with JCP in 2009. He serves on the board of Jewish Week, American Symphony Orchestra, Lab/Shul and Downtown Arts Development and the created of the “Downtown Seder” which brings 25 artists, musicians, comedians, and political figures to each take a section of the classic Passover story and present to sold-out audiences over the past 10 years. Michael is married with three children and lives in Tribeca, New York.

Dr. Michelle Freedman

Dr. Michelle Freedman is a licensed Psychologist with a master’s degrees in Rehabilitation Counseling and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Saint Louis University in Saint Louis, Missouri. Dr. Freedman completed her post-doctoral work at New York University, the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine in the areas of Behavioral Medicine and Neuropsychology. After completing a post-doctoral fellowship at the Center for Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapy in NYC, Dr. Freedman maintained a private practice as a psychologist for 12 years. Her areas of expertise include anxiety and depressive disorders, and Obsessive-compulsive disorder. Dr. Freedman is a part of the UJA Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal’s Teen Initiative Task Force. Her family has also recently completed Lab Shul’s Raising the Bar Program in 2016. Dr. Freedman lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Jerry Block, and their three children.

Ora Ramat

ora ramatOra Ramat (Past Co-Chair) majored in Art History and graduated with honors from the CUNY BA program. Ora is a certified yoga instructor teaching private classes as well as at the Ramaz high School in New York City Ora has a yoga studio “Wagging Tail Yoga”, in Bethel,NY (Catskills) where she leads yoga and wellness retreats there several times a year. She has served on the Board of the American Jewish Committee’s Women’s Campaign since 1986 and joined the Board of Lab/Shul in 2006. Ora joined the Board of Storahtelling (and now Lab/Shul) in 2006. As Co-Chair, Ora has been a generous donor and has contributed much time to convening the Board, hosting Board and StorahCircle events, and widening Lab/Shul’s donor base and circle of friends.

Pamela Rubin Carter

Pamela Rubin Carter was trained as an architect and lawyer. She holds degrees from M.I.T. and Columbia Law School. She worked on exhibit design for Charles and Ray Eames, worked in documentary film and practiced law at several New York City law firms in the land use department where she worked on a number of large scale urban projects involving zoning, landmarks and urban planning issues. Currently, she is of counsel to the law firm Mirkin & Gordon, working as a developer in the Bronx and is starting her own design business. Her past activities include serving on the Community Board, on the Board of Directors of the Maternity Center Association and The Actor’s Temple. She is currently a Director of the New York Landmarks Conservancy where she serves as the President of The Real Property Fund. She is also on the advisory board of Rocking the Boat. A frequent host of meetings and events, Pamela is an important advisor to Lab/Shul’s Raising the Bar program.

Dr. Renee Cherow-O'Leary

renee cherow olearyDr. Renée Cherow-O’Leary is President of Education for the 21st Century, a research and consulting company in New York City, specializing in curriculum development for media companies that create programs for children, parents and teachers on multiple platforms. Dr. Cherow-O’Leary was a professor of English Education at Teachers College, Columbia University (2003-2009) and has served on the faculties of Rutgers Newark, New York University and City College of New York. She was a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University in the Arts in Education Program and the Technology in Education programs at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and studied Entrepreneurship and Education Reform at the Harvard Business School (2007). She is a former Research Director at the Children’s Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop) and former National Coordinator of Creating Critical Viewers, a media literacy initiative of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in seventeen cities. She serves on several boards including the current WNYC public radio Community Advisory Board, the U.S. Department of Education Ready to Learn UMIGO Advisory Board, the Children’s Movement for Creative Education and Lab/Shul.

Rhona Silverbush

rhona silverbushRhona Silverbush studied psychology and theatre at Brandeis and holds a JD from Boston College Law School. After representing asylum seekers, she returned to her first loves, writing, theatre and teaching. She is the co-author of Speak the Speech! Shakespeare’s Monologues Illuminated (Faber and Faber, 2002) and has taught at Columbia University Teachers College. She has taught theatre to all age groups, currently teaching Shakespeare classes for NYC’s Shakespeare Society. She co-produced, directed, wrote and moderated Conversations with Shakespeare at Symphony Space in New York, now being edited for public radio. A freelance writer and editor, Rhona wrote celebrity-chef Tom Colicchio’s book, ‘wichcraft: craft a sandwich into a meal–and a meal into a sandwich, and is currently writing his next cookbook, as well as a book on US education and a series of books for toddlers. Since college, Rhona has been tutoring children for their B-Mitzvah ceremonies: she’s developed a curriculum that her students and their families report is spiritually moving and relevant and deepens their connection with their heritage. Rhona works with children with special needs to prepare them for this life cycle event. Finally and most importantly, Rhona is a smitten parent and step-parent.

Stuart Himmelfarb

stuart himmelfarbStuart Himmelfarb co-founded B3/The Jewish Boomer Platform, to engage—or re-engage—Baby Boomers in Jewish life. He is also a Senior Fellow at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. Stuart held professional and volunteer positions in the Jewish community and spent 25 years in marketing, advertising, and research. He founded CollegeTrack, a consulting company, later sold to Roper. He earned an MBA from Columbia, MA from Brandeis and BA from Brown, and is a Wexner Heritage alumnus. Stuart co-authored (with Dr. David Elcott, B3’s other co-founder) “Generations and Re-Generation: Engagement and Fidelity in 21st Century American Jewish Life” and is currently president of The New York Jewish Week. He was named a Human Rights Fellow by American Jewish World Service in January 2015.