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.


What was Revealed – When we Stayed up All Night

shavuot worship 3We sat singing, eating fruit and talking about making our lives more honest and holy when someone pointed at the window and cried out – Daylight! Slowly the sky became light blue: We had stayed up till dawn, and revealed the light, and with it – new nuggets of learning and meaning. 

Shavuot 5774:  Amichai, Shira Kline, Naomi Less along with a host of Storahtellers, Lab/Shul community members and collaborators joined LABA/arts, the 14th Street Y and over 20 downtown organizations and congregations to celebrate the Shavuot holiday from moonrise to sunrise.  Well over 300 people came through the building all night long to celebrate, pray, sing, eat, chat and be part of this unique collaborative effort to recapture the magic of this holiday for today. There were many different revelations.  Captured below are just a few of the Lab/Shul voices reflecting on the experience.
(photos by Gili Getz)

Val Issembert, Storahtelling Company Member

I came to lab/shul as an artist and ever questioning Jew in the fall of 2011, joining the company to deepen my own exploration of our elusive tradition and find new meaning in our age old practices. As one of the maven team for Shavuot Into The Night, we took on the traditional reading of the Ten Commandments asking ourselves how, in 2014, these pronouncements are relevant and why we even bother with their recitation at all. Creating a range of characters that would be recognizable to us today (because after all this is about understanding the HERE and NOW), we created a script that investigated what it might have been like for these characters if they had been the ones at Mt. Sinai receiving the Torah 2500 years ago. shavuot maven
With humor and honest questioning and within a theatrical structure, we were able to grapple with and illuminate some of the difficulties that people today often have when they encounter the Ten Commandments – this absolute set of rules for our existence. I never thought much about the sixth commandment, Lo Tirtzach, “Though Shalt Not Kill”. It was 1:30 in the morning and already suffering from jetlag, I was basically running on empty. Urging myself to hear Amichai and think more freely about the depth of metaphor behind this utterance (the sixth commandment), I arrived at a Shavuot revelation. Today and for the rest of the days of my life, I can strive to always take one more breath before I speak or revisit a thought before I act on it because otherwise (even subconsciously), I may allow myself to engage in an act that kills by extinguishing an aspiration (my own or another’s). It is an enormous mitzvah to take on, but one that now resonates with new meaning and utmost relevance.

Harold Geller, Lab/Shul community participant
Shavuot worshipTo have been able to share tefilot (worship services) with such diverse group of kehilot/communities filled me with awe and gave me hope for the sustainability of Jewish culture freed from the structure (keva) of the past,  and filled with such spirit (kavanah).

With my denominational Conservative upbringing,  I’m so used to synagogues being in “competition” when it came to Yom tov/holiday gatherings, and only coming together for social or civic occasions (Yom ha’atzmaut/Israel Independence Day, Yom hashoah/Holocaust Remembrance Day).

To borrow and paraphrase my teacher Rabbi Brad Artson….Judaism needs to always be on the way,  and always becoming yet never arriving,  because we are engaged in a never ending journey.

Niggun led by Naomi Less
Click picture or this link
naomi nigguning
Amanda Miller, Storahtelling Lab/Shul company maven

I had the privilege of working with a group to create a script and translation of the 10 commandments. As always it was wonderful to examine Torah text with such smart creative people and collaborate on a way to bring the material alive and make it relevant to modern times. I had never really done anything to observe the holiday in the past and this event bred new meaning for me, particularly with regards to the fact that Shavuot is about revelation. My personal Shavuot revelation was inspired by an idea my fellow mavens and I explored while scripting: I will explore/wrestle with/ commit to the one commandment that pushes my buttons most this coming year, and see how and if it changes my interaction with life for the better.

Rabbi Sara Sapadin, proud member of the Maven Network, having trained with the Big Apple Maven cohort of Rabbis, Cantors and Jewish Educators
Taking part in Shavuot “REVEAL,” was totally invigorating, stimulating and FUN. Over the course of one week, with two highly compressed and ridiculously efficient rehearsals (along with a couple of key phone calls and a string of emails), a determined group of us came together to plot, vision and execute a ritual piece around the centerpiece of Shavuot—the reading of the Ten Commandments.  And while it was a bit nerve-wracking, given our truncated schedule, the laughter, joy and learning outweighed the worry.  It was a completely collaborative process from start to finish, and therefore a process that engendered enormous trust from the start.  In the end, my own revelation had less to do with the text and more to do with the process: We tackled the questions surrounding the Ten Commandments together, debating and discussing ad infinitum, and exploring and encouraging one another along the way.  And everything we excavated, whether it ended up in the script or not, served to deepen our attachment to this marvelous text.  In the end, we encountered the Divine through vigorous study and lively conversation, through our unique, shared exploration and our even more unique performance experience.  God did not come down from the mountain top on that Wednesday morning; God was already there.

We are grateful to our friends at the 14th St. Y for collaborating with us on the idea and taking it to a profound place of impact for so many people – with a lot of hard work! Heres’ to next year’s all night journey to reveal new mysteries and discover new ways of making our old stories come alive.