Welcome to Lab/Shul, an artist-driven, everybody-friendly, God-optional, pop up, experimental community for sacred Jewish gatherings based in NYC and reaching the world.


Fallow Pocket: Notes from the First FallowLab Study Salon!

“In the emerging, highly programmed landscape ahead, you will either create the software or you will be the software. It’s really that simple: Program, or be programmed. Choose the former, and you gain access to the control panel of civilization.
Choose the latter, and it could be the last real choice you get to make.”  (Douglas Rushkoff)

Our first FallowLab Study Salon at The Workmen’s Circle on 10/22 brought together 50 people in NYC – and online, for a lively conversation about Shmita, its’ meaning for our lives, and ways to better balance our online and offline lives. Julie, one participant talked about creating ‘Fallow Pockets’ – moments each day when we willfully disconnect and take some time to just be and breath. Interacting with us from LA, Theodore Bikel (THE Theodore Bikel) commented on how and why he loves his IPAD and wondered about digital addiction as an issue of ageism. A fascinating online chat included some of the gems below, and all present left eager for continued conversation, exploration – and fallowing, together. 

Hop online to read more and sign up for the salon – in NYC and online, on Nov. 12

“The first lab/shul conversation on shmita was really phenomenal – thought-provoking, well-facilitated; really worthwhile.  And some really interesting ideas on technology. Technology itself if ubiquitous in our lives, but thinking about technology thoughtfully is very not-ubiquitous. So using fresh “tools,” like some of the shmita ideas, just makes great sense.” – Nigel Savage, Hazon President

CHECK IT OUT: The following conversation happened online between a few of our webinar participants while the live event occurred.  What you will read here are brainstorming on how we can incorporate the concept of Shmita into our lives – how it is relevant – and what we want to do about it.”

AmichaiFLParticipants are Aimee Ginsburg Bikel and Theodore Bikel from California and Jennifer Lee, Eszter Margit and Naomi Less in NYC.

Aimee Ginsburg Bikel: I am thinking about “using” shmita as a real reset— let the year slowly flow as some other seeds start to germinate and grow. A journey of letting what is dead or dying, go.

Naomi Less: The idea of a mandated rest period for – at the time – obvious reasons, sounds like an incredible opportunity to really start again from a new place.

Jennifer Lee: Figuring out a way to do this in your own life sounds amazing. Finding the discipline is the challenge. In America – trying to reconnect and disconnect involves setting up parameters about where and when I use digital devices and most importantly what I do with the time that is now freed up.

Eszter Margit: I’m wondering why and how is shmita supposed to be different from Shabbat and/or holidays when orthodox folks like me don’t use electronics anyway… what could it add to our practice?

Aimee Ginsburg Bikel: I have noticed at the gym that absolutely everyone, from fellow exercisers to maintenance crew, to trainers to parking lot attendants are all looking into their phones, and sometimes I feel a wash of fear. Aimee Ginsburg Bikel: I leave my phone in the locker when I go for my workout! I’m very proud of myself but don’t always actually do it.

Eszter Margit: It is an addiction. We should treat it as is. Right?

Theodore BikelI do not regard technology, for me, as an addiction. It is my servant not my master.  (I do read books on the iPod, not because I consider that an electronic marvel but because I’m 90 and I like the ability to enlarge the print.)

Jennifer Lee: Doing it together with a community or with buddy is best way to succeed.

Eszter Margit: This conversation is amazing to me coming from a country – Hungary – where 80% of folks don’t have smart phones or even internet.

Naomi Less: So, concretely we’ve hit the following: checking email while sitting, not walking. No phones in the bedroom at night. Do not check email for thirty minutes when you wake. We are the master, not the slave.  And how to deal with addiction.



To be continued…