LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture is a program of the 14th Street Y that uses classic Jewish texts to inspire the creation of art, dialogue and study.
Part of LABA is the House of Study, an artist fellowship program for which around 10 culture-makers, a mix of visual artists, writers, dancers, musicians, actors and others, are brought together to study classic Jewish texts in a non-religious, open-minded setting. The fellows use the study to inspire work which is featured on this website and in our series of LABAlive events and performances. Every year LABA focuses its study around a theme. Previous themes include Paradise, Eros, Blueprint, Eat, Mother, Time, Beauty, and OTHER. This year’s theme is HUMOR.
LABA puts out a call for applicants in late spring for the following year’s fellows and announces the cohort by mid-summer. For more on our process, click here.
Our goal at LABA is to present Judaism’s rich literary and intellectual tradition in a free and creative setting, so that these stories and ideas spark new thought and art. The creative output from our House of Study pushes the boundaries of what Jewish art can be and what Jewish texts can teach.
LABA was founded in 2007 by Stephen Hazan Arnoff, the former executive director of the 14th Street Y, writer and teacher Basmat Hazan Arnoff and artist Anat Litwin.
For more information contact Director of LABA Laura Beatrix Newmark, at lnewmark@14streetY.org.
Find out more about what LABA fellows past and present are up to on our Facebook page.
Find press coverage of LABA here.
Laura Beatrix Newmark, Director of LABA
Laura Beatrix Newmark was born in Cincinnati and has called New York City her home for two and a half decades. She completed a LABA Fellowship in the 2016-17 season OTHER with her project Hannah and Her Sisters about the feelings of otherness becoming a mother. Laura’s work in the intersection of the arts, media, activism, community building and Jewish programming spans two decades. She quoted a young stand-up named Jay Leno at her bat mitzvah, watched every episode of The Jon Stewart Show and then snuck into a comedy club to tell him she was Jewish, and eventually managed a roster of stand-ups and improv artists. Laura holds a BA from Barnard College and lives in Brooklyn with sons Elias Pablo and Milo Liev (14th Street Y graduates), and husband Matt, a lapsed professional juggler.
Ruby Namdar, Resident Scholar
Ruby Namdar is an Israeli-American author born and raised in Jerusalem to a family of Iranian-Jewish heritage. His latest novel The Ruined House (2013) won the Sapir Prize, Israel’s most prestigious literary award. The English edition of The Ruined House (translated by Hillel Halkin) was published in the US by Harper Collins in November 2017. The French edition of the novel (translated by Sarah Tardy) was published in September 2018 by Belfond, and was nominated for the Prix du premier roman étranger 2018. He currently lives in NYC with his wife and two daughters, and teaches Jewish literature, focusing on Biblical and Talmudic narrative.
Shira Hecht-Koller, Guest Lecturer
Shira Hecht-Koller, Esq, is an educator, attorney and writer. She is currently Director of Education for 929 English, an educational start-up and platform for the daily global study of Tanakh and is a faculty member at Drisha, where she teaches Talmud and designs immersive text study experiences. She brings with her over a decade of experience teaching Jewish Studies and designing interdisciplinary curricula in the classroom and has practiced corporate intellectual property law at Debevoise & Plimpton, LLP. She teaches, writes and speaks on topics of Bible, Jewish law and creative living. She was a Paradigm Fellow at the Paideia Institute of Jewish Studies in Stockholm, where she is currently Educational Ambassador. She is a past Board member of Uri L’tzedek, and sits on the advisory board of Shazur/Interwoven, an organization designed to rebuild the relationship between Israeli and American Jewry. She holds a JD from Cardozo School of Law, where she was editor of Cardozo Law Review, is a graduate of the Beruria Scholars Talmud Program at Midreshet Lindenbaum and holds a certificate from M²: The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education where she was a Fellow in the Senior Educators Cohort. Her photography was featured in The Jewish Journey Haggadah (authored by Adena Berkowitz). She is also an avid tennis fan and loves hiking and exploring the world with her husband Aaron and children Dalya, Shachar, Amitai and Aiden.
Rabbi Scott Perlo, Guest Lecturer
Rabbi Scott Perlo is leader in the field of Jewish open outreach. He’s taught Torah to thousands of unaffiliated Jews, their partners and those interested in Jewish life of any background. For the last ten years, Scott has worked primarily with Millennials, addressing the specific needs of the next generation of Jewish life. Scott is a veteran of multiple cutting-edge Jewish communities, having served as a rabbi at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, rabbi-in-residence at Moishe House and The Professional Leaders Project, and intern at IKAR in Los Angeles. Scott leads trips for Honeymoon Israel, was a founding member of the Jewish Emergent Network and is a Wexner Field Fellow. A regular writer, Rabbi Perlo has been published in The Washington Post, The Forward and The Huffington Post, among other publications. A California native, he gets back to his beloved Pacific Ocean to surf and to dive whenever he can. He lives in New York with his partner, Yael, a Constitutional lawyer, and son.
Amy Handelsman, Interviewer
Amy Handelsman, a 2017-18 LABA Fellow, is a producer, writer and story executive, working in theater, film and television in Los Angeles and New York. She has developed and produced plays, movies and cable films and series for Center Theatre Group, Showtime, Warner Bros., ABC, CBS, PBS, Tri-Star and Discovery. Handelsman has also served as a theater consultant for HBO’s U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, the Hip-Hop Theater Festival in New York and is part of the Artistic Council of the National Playwrights Conference at the O’Neill Theater Center. She has written about theater, sports and religion for various publications (Tablet and the LABA journal, among them). She is an Adjunct Professor at NYU/Tisch’s Game Center and in the Department of Creative Writing & Literature at Stony Brook University, where she is getting her M.F.A. and writing a memoir about boxing. www.amyhandelsman.com
THE 14TH STREET Y STAFF:
David Stallings is the Director of Arts & Culture at the 14th Street Y in Manhattan. He migrated from the South to NYC over fifteen years ago and has been working consistently as a playwright, actor and producer both in the city and regionally. The author of 15 full length plays and numerous shorts, David’s plays focus on diversity and marginalized voices have reached audiences across the US and Internationally. His play about the Louisiana oil spill, Dark Water, received its World Premiere in NYC in March 2014 at the 14th Street Y and was the proud recipient of the New York Innovative Theater Award for Best Original Full Length Script. Other plays include The Baby Monitor, Anais Nin Goes to Hell, The Family Shakespeare and Leonora. As a theater artist, he has worked with several theater companies including La MaMa, The Culture Project, Prospect Theater Company, Boo-Arts, and Oberon Theater Company as well as having had productions and readings of his work across the country from Los Angeles to Tulsa, Oklahoma and Boston, Massachusetts. In 2006, he co-founded Manhattan Theatre Works (MTWorks) with his play Folie a Deux: Insanity in Pairsas their inaugural production. The company was focused on original work that inspired social change. He served as the Artistic Director for MTWorks for ten years before moving to the 14th Street Y where his passion for fusing social justice and Theater continues.
Kryssy Wright is the Production Manager for Arts & Culture at the 14th Street Y. Since relocating to Brooklyn she has designed and built sets, designed and hung light plots, stage managed, set up audio and video systems, production managed, tech directed, and swept a lot of floors. While in NYC , Kryssy has worked with the Ensemble Studio Theater, Columbia University, INTAR, Noemie LaFrance, PS122, Danspace, Abrons Art Center, and many others. Outside of NYC she went on tour with The Civilians. Currently Kryssy is the Technical Director of the Theater at the 14th Street Y. She is an Associate Artist with Third Rail Projects, whom with she was awarded a Bessie, Avant Media, and LABA. Her degree is from Bennington College.
Rebecca Miller is Theater Manager for Arts and Culture at the 14th Street Y. She has a background in immersive entertainment administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from Barnard College.
Lilith Bachelder is the Box Office & Special Events Coordinator. She is an actor, writer and pathological knitter.
Shoshana Torn is an artist & designer based in Baltimore, MD. This is her sixth year contributing to LABA as a graphic designer. Her current design projects run the gamut of international event branding, conceptual and end-to-end production for non-profits, and websites for emerging businesses and initiatives. Shoshana holds a B.A. in Art History with honors from NYU in addition to surviving six years of art school.
Ronit Muszkatblit is the Senior Director of Arts & Culture (On Sabbatical 2019-2020). She was born in Germany and raised in Israel. She is a theater director and the founding member of woken’glaicer theater company and Operatzia as well as a member of posttheater ny/berlin. Ronit curates and directs in various capacities with a focus on opera, theater and multi disciplinary events. Her most recent directing credits include all the LABALive events and the operas “SPHINX” (Culturemart HERE) and “3WEEKS” (MAP grant, 14th Street Y) both by Yoav Gal. Her most recent theater credits include: “Hanna and the Moonlit Dress” by Itzchak D’miel (14th Street Y), “Nature of Captivity” by Mathew Paul Elmos (Mabou Mines Suite @ PS 122), “Cantaloupe” by Gina Bonati (Boston ); “ON ART,” an adaptation of “Art” by Yasmina Reza (Rohkunst Bau, Berlin); “It is said the men are over in the steel tower” by Hideo Tsuchida,(TBG Theater, NYC); Struwwelmensch (Rohkunst Bau Festival, Berlin);) “Matchmaker Matchmaker” (Stadts Bank Berlin); “Quartet” by Heiner Müller (Westbeth Theater, NYC); “The Child Dreams” by Hanoch Levin (Staged Reading 59E59, NYC). Ronit received her MFA in directing from the Actors Studio Drama School and trained at La Mama Umbria (Italy) and with Siti Company.
ABOUT THE 14TH STREET Y:
The 14th Street Y, a Jewish community center in the East Village, is a vital neighborhood resource that welcomes people of all backgrounds. We provide a variety of programs with a distinctive downtown point of view, emphasizing excellence, innovation, creativity, and a questioning spirit. We are inspired by tikkun olam, or repair of the world, in all that we do — a value that represents and renews the vitality of our Jewish heritage and its place in our diverse and vibrant community. The 14th Street Y is a proud part of Educational Alliance’s network of programs throughout downtown Manhattan.