LAB/SHUL, founded in 2013, is a radically new congregational model, rooted in Jewish spiritual practice, informed by current social realities, committed to trying out new ways of connecting people, celebrating the sacred, and making the world into a better place, for all.
We invite you to join our journey.
The LAB/SHUL concept has evolved over the past several years, and is the next step in a sweeping vision for transforming ancient legacies into contemporary conversations. in 1999, Amichai Lau-Lavie, an Israeli educator and performance artist created Storahtelling, a Jewish Ritual Theater Company, based in NYC, reaching multi-generational audiences worldwide.
Storahtelling became a successful company, pioneering replicable models for the integration of education and the arts, social change and spiritual life. Over the years the company of artists, educators and fans grew into a community.
Now, this community is ready to become a congregation, led by Amichai Lau-Lavie, senior Storahtelling educators and artists, and supported by a strong network of allies and friends.
Join us in co-creating the next big thing in Jewish spiritual life: An engaged and embodied congregation – for the rest of us.
A Personal Vision from Amichai
“Those of us who believe that Judaism is a vital, compelling force must respond to the call of this generation by articulating a passionate, accessible, challenging and compelling Jewish life.” (Rabbi Sharon Brous, 12/12/12)
It’s time to start a new community. A new model that combines the intellectual, emotional, aesthetic, physical and spiritual dimensions of our being, presenting the modern Jewish community with exciting experiential forms of sacred gathering that will nourish our thirst for meaning, connection and community.
I’m thirsty for this, and I know many of us are as well.
When I founded Storahtelling I had this vision of spiritual communal gathering grounded in a revitalized sense of Jewish literacy and learning. I needed to nourish my own thirst for a community of seekers with whom I can explore life’s biggest questions.
My initial focus was a re-imagined format for the sharing of our central narratives and sacred stories because I wanted to begin with the basics – the building blocks of literacy. Stories are vaults of value and are the key to our sense of identity. I ventured forth to explore a new model of communal Jewish learning deeply rooted in tradition yet radically relevant to our modern ways of life.
Over the years a community of seekers – storytellers and artists, educators and thinkers, business people and community leaders – joined me in co-creating ongoing experiences that celebrate our inherited rituals and stories in exciting new ways.
Together we’ve been quenching the thirst of many of us for a Judaism that really matters. Slowly, the Storahtelling vision became a community, grounded in the vision of an accessible, meaningful and vibrant Jewish life.
15 years later, following a rich array of experiences and explorations, failures and successes, it’s time to take the vision to the next level, supported by a strong community of leaders, fellow seekers, artistic visionaries and educators eager to try new ideas.
The details will be worked out jointly – where and when, how often, for whom, what to focus on and what to delegate – but this much we know:
This is a lab. A Lab Shul – the place for asking the big questions about how and why we celebrate our Jewish legacy, in ways relevant and meaningful to our modern lives. This will be a safe space to ponder faith and prayer, wrestle with our legacy, our Torah, and our values, without compromising our commitment to our heritage. Inspired by educational models such as John Dewey’s Laboratory School, this Shul Lab will provide a warm and healthy environment for ongoing learning, celebration and change.
This will be a local community, but with an eye to the global – serving, over time, as a center for wider reach explorations of new models for worship, study, and community building, grounded in Jewish knowledge, tradition and practice.
We will model our best practices, gained over 15 years of explorations, such as reimagined Torah and Worship Services, interactive family programs, and B’nai Mitzvah rituals. In time, we will convene trainings for clergy, B’nai Mitzvah trainers and educators. We will use the best of modern technologies in the service of our oldest tools for sacred living.
The Lab Shul will be led by me, along with a team of inspiring and talented leaders – artists, educators, media mavens and social activists. This will be a model for collaborative teamwork guided by shared values and direction. Partnerships with leading voices in our community and in other communities of faith will enrich our conversation and practice. Charismatic leadership is important – and together with a strong teamwork can build a firm, lasting and sustainable infrastructure that can handle transition, evolutions and change over time.
At the heart of this enterprise is a courageous Judaism that is seriously spiritual and intellectually honest. A Judaism with a sense of humor and a sophisticated approach, that pays attention to the aesthetic, honors the ecstatic, and is transparent in the quest for making new meaning out of our inherited truths.
Diversity and inclusiveness is key, and our tent is wide enough to welcome all, including Jews and people other than Jews, regardless of sexual orientation, identity or political worldview. We will honor and promote a pluralistic Judaism that celebrates human dignity and social progress; develop tools to nurture our soul, mind and body.
There are elements of interfaith dialogue, real relationship with the surrounding environment and acts of social change and progress that resonate with our values and empower our members to do more for others on a regular basis.
Art – music, media, literature, theater and a high production value will play a central role in how we transmit our values and honor our legacy in ways that match our highest aspirations for elegance, dignity and beauty. The Lab Shul will serve as a hub for ongoing creativity and the production of new fusions of Jewish art and education.
Worship – we will explore diverse modalities of worship, including creative and interactive fusions of performance art, music, technology and learning. Liturgical traditions will include the wide span and breadth of Jewish, global and current traditions. The lab will include voices from other traditions and innovations that will serve the wider community.
Ongoing learning, on different levels and through diverse means, including modern media and technology, will provide our community with consistent opportunities for personal growth and deeper connection to Jewish literacy and its value to our lives.
It’s a lab because the current state of spiritually focused communal gathering needs new energy, ideas, and the courage to begin again. Our story is sacred and old, and it’s time for a new chapter.