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.


Upgrade Community to CommuniTAS – Let’s build this home, together.

Upgrade Community to Communitas – Let’s build this home, together. 
Amichai Lau-Lavie and the Lab/Shul Team

Groundhog day is this cute ritualistic day about foretelling the future of winter, but for those of us gathered on the seventh floor of UJA Federation of NY’s HQ yesterday the predications were not about the next six weeks – they were about the rest of our lives – and the healthy lives of our community. 

The super smart day-long conference was organized by UJA’s incredible Synergy team and focused on new research about voluntary dues models – or in other words – how do we build a sustainable and inclusive Jewish community in the 21st Century. 

Check out a fantastic New York Times Article that came out yesterday about this topic. 

A group of lay leaders from Lab/Shul joined Naomi, Shira and me yesterday to engage in the learning and ask what our steps would be towards this process.  (Thank you to Stuart Himmelfarb, Karen Pratt, K’lila Nooning and Jane Graver.)

I am very grateful to all who took time out of a busy day to engage with us on this. And I invite all of you for whom Lab/Shul matters to join us on 2/11 at our next Town Hall to be part of this pioneering project as we reinvent a new and improved membership model for Lab/Shul. Your voice really matters.  Here’s why: 

dollar heartThere are 29 congregations all over the US trying out this new voluntary dues model in different ways- but none of those are emerging and new congregations like us. There’s a lot at stake. This is where the Lab part of Lab/Shul comes to life. We’ve built this year’s SeasonPass model based on your feedback and suggestions last year. Now we’re coming back together to build on this conversation and take it to the next step of innovation. 

We get to learn from the past, share with our mentors and colleagues, and together come up with the perfect plan that will make it possible for each and every one of us to have an equal share in the building of this community and grow into what is known as Communitas.

What is Communitas? Anthropologist Victor Turner coined this term to indicate a community that is molded by ritual to become a close-knit unit of care. 
I first heard this term back in 2001  – right after the first time a bunch of us from Storahtelling gathered to co-create a worship ritual together. 

It was Yom Kippur afternoon, 2001, and we were at the super over-crowded theater at the  14th St Y. 

We didn’t advertise – just invited the Storahtelling co. members and friends to come hang out and jam for our own version of Yom Kippur liturgy, study and live music.

We thought we’d get 100 people. The 14th St. Y only charged us $400 for maintenance and security. Over 400 people showed up. All ages. All backgrounds. We jammed so strong that nobody wanted to stop when it came for break-fast. We went overtime. Joyfully.

At the end I made a simple plea – we need $400 to cover our expenses here, and passed the plate. We collected over $2,000. 

On that Yom Kippur we created Communitas

This is an example of a voluntary dues model. You support the experience you want to be part of.  And we want more. So here we are now, excited for next!

We are a cutting edge, emerging community – pioneering new ways of how community participates in funding itself.  We’ve explored myriad models since our inception less than two years ago. 

We’re not the first develop ways of financially sustaining community. The Torah calls on each Israelite to give a “ransom for their soul”.  Middle age rabbis developed financial scales of giving based on time spent in a community – contributing to everything from charity to soup to burial. Check out the just published Voluntary Dues Guide DOWNLOAD from UJA Federation NY – this will help us get there! 

What will Lab/Shul’s model be?

In order for us to build a sustained community that values each other – we need to unpack words like money, participation, obligation, responsibility, volunteering, and sustaining – and understand transparently what it is that Lab/Shul needs to exist and how we pay for it. 

As important as the details and data, is the way that we talk about it – how our values bring about our next evolution. 

That’s why I really want YOU to  join us on 2/11 at our next Town Hall to give voice to how the Lab/Shul community will continue to evolve.

This meeting will be a first step in a 3 month process – to catapult a focused team who will work on a formal proposal to the community.  

See you soon.