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.


Waiting, Waking, Wading and Walking – four voices

One event, four voices, four experiences of the “in between”.  
Shabbat AM “The Last Seder” on April 19th – an interfaith event.

Amichai Lau-Lavie – Spiritual Leader

Photo Apr 19, 12 31 38On Saturday we waited.

  • Waited, along with the fleeing slaves,  for the sea to part or for something to save us from the Egyptian army on our heels.
  • Waited, along with Mary and the disciples of Jesus to bury a beloved teacher.
  • Waited, with our friend Rev. Stephen’s family, back in Hamburg in the 1940’s – for the train to finally arrive at the camp. 
  • Waited for the eggs, hand painted, to dry up so that we can crack and eat them in celebration of spring and all our shared paths and symbols and stories.  
  • This past Saturday, at City Winery, we blended Passover and Easter and focused on the shared theme of the art of waiting. 

Photo Apr 19, 11 26 23According to Jewish tradition, this day would have marked the arrival of the Hebrews at the shores of the Red Sea – confused, afraid, waiting. For Christians, Holy Saturday recalls the ‘in between’ day – post death and pre resurrection. A day of waiting for news, for mourning, for change. We honored both.   Interfaith worship can be tricky – but this one managed to respectfully represent the Passover and Easter stories and invite all of us present – Jewish, Christian, Other – to be fully here with our own stories – while supporting the journey of others. 

Rev. Vince Anderson – Ritual Co-Facilitator

Shabbat am  Apr 19 Vince Anderson

I had so many moments of beautiful revelation while participating in the Lab/Shul LAST SEDER. One was when the Torah was being danced around, and we were singing and dancing. From behind my piano I could see people kissing the Torah as it made its way 

Photo Apr 19, 12 31 05

through the congregation.
It was so joyful and ecstatic. It made me mourn the fact that my Christian tradition does not have this kind of relationship to the scriptures. So much of Christianity’s relationship to the text is purely from the head.  At Lab/Shul I saw something different. I saw a relationship that used the whole body.  The whole person. The whole community. This relationship continued during the Storahtelling in a beautiful and unique way. I needed Lab/Shul to shed light on my own tradition. For this, a blessing was received. 

Stephen Figurasmith – Kids Program Volunteer

Photo Apr 19, 11 52 13 (1) We stood there at the edge of the water – a dozen of Lab/Shul’s youngest participants, a few adult volunteers, and me – not knowing what to do next, when somebody saw them coming from behind.  “Look, Pharaoh’s soldiers are coming after us – what should we do?!”   Our group was at no loss for creative suggestions.  “We should swim across!” “No, let’s stay and fight back!” “Maybe we should give up and go be slaves in Egypt again.”  “No, let’s outsmart 

the soldiers with a clever disguise!”  

Photo Apr 19, 11 52 20
Obviously, the only way to settle this debate was to act out each suggestion through song, movement, drama, and games.  In the end, we practiced listened to the instructions that the Creator gave to Moses in that moment of danger and uncertainty: “Tacharishun! Hold your peace!”  Can we, should we, hold our peace when we’re stuck in a bad place, faced with a tough decision?  As usual, the youngest voices had abundant wisdom to offer when they reported back to the adults.  I can’t wait until the next Lab/Shul Shabbat am, when kids will continue to tackle big questions posed by life and the Torah while having fun.

Sarah Sokolic – Storah-Maven (and Vice Chair of the Board)

Shabbat am Apr 19 Sarah Sokolic maven 1About two weeks before Passover, I discovered the new Billy Joel channel on Sirius radio.  Having grown up on Long Island, being a Billy Joel fan was large part of my identity.  I do, indeed, believe he’s one of the best singer-songwriters of all time and his songs have significantly contributed to the soundtrack of my life.  So one lazy Sunday morning a few weeks ago while hanging out with the kids in our PJs, I put on the Billy Joel channel.  My kids have had very little, if no, introduction to Billy Joel so I thought it was the perfect opportunity for a little music appreciation lesson.

My 10 year old son loves music but gravitates towards pop and hip hop (the other day he referred to Bruce Springsteen as “that old people music” to my Jersey-born husband – don’t ask) so I was happy to see him listening to the Billy Joel songs with interest and really paying attention to the lyrics.  After a while, my son asked, “Is this song about Passover?”  I hadn’t been paying close attention to the music as I was cleaning up from breakfast but I quickly tuned in and the song playing was “The River of Dreams”.  It was a song I remember well from the early ‘90s but never paid it much attention – frankly it hadn’t ever been one of my favorites.  I was surprised and intrigued by my son’s question.  We Googled the song lyrics and each verse became more compelling than the next.  We agreed that Billy Joel (while a well-known celebrity member of the tribe) probably had not intended for this song to be about the Israelites struggle on the banks of the red sea.  However, the song so clearly invoked for us the emotion of what it might have been like for the Israelites to be walking through the wilderness in the middle of the night, struggling to break free from old paradigms, gain a new identity, and do some deep soul searching.

As it turned out, I had been scheduled to “Maven” (perform a live, interactive Torah translation) during the Torah Photo Apr 19, 11 21 02service on the Shabbat of Passover at Storahtelling’s LabShul in just a couple of weeks with my longtime friend and Storahtelling collaborator, Shira Kline.  Right away I emailed the lyrics to “River of Dreams” to Shira, and she, too, loved the idea of incorporating the lyrics, if not the entire song, into the re-telling of the story.  Imagery of fire and references to the water leading to a “promised land” sealed the deal.  We were using it.  

After five skype and in-person meetings, Shira and I had scripted and staged our Maven.  Our “Bullseye” (or Key Question) focused on the translation and meaning of the biblical word, Tacharishun – “hold your peace”.  The word Moses uses to calm down the Israelites as they cry out in fear of what will happen to them as the Egyptian army closes in on them at the foot of the sea.  Admist the live translation, we asked the community “Is is possible to “hold your peace” in a moment of crisis? If so, how does one do that?  What could happen differently as a result of finding calm amidst crisis and not resorting to impulsiveness?”

This exploration of finding the liminal space – or space “in between” harkened back to the larger theme of LabShul’s first ever Shabbat morning interfaith service that very morning – holy Saturday – co-led by Amichai Lau-Lavie and Rev. Vince Anderson.  This is what I love so much about LabShul and the Storahtelling method.  How one can find theological, psychological and theatrical connection between the story of the Israelites crossing the red sea, the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the Piano Man.  I left LabShul this past Shabbat even more invigorated and inspired than usual.  I know that we will continue to explore and find modern meaning and deeper connection to our shared histories and to each other as we co-create this truly unique and amazing community.

Can I get an Amen!?