LABA: House of Study is a secular beit midrash and culture laboratory at the 14th Street Y in New York City. Every year the LABA staff selects a group of 10 fellows -- a mix of artists, writers, dancers, musicians, actors and others -- to partake in a yearlong study of classical Jewish texts centered around a theme. The fellows then interpret these texts in their work which is featured in the bi-monthly online journal and annual year-end festival. A central focus of LABA is to present Judaism's rich literary and intellectual traditions in a non-denominational, non-religious setting, so that these writings may serve as inspiration for the fellows' art.
In the spring, LABA celebrates the end of a year of study with a multi-disciplinary festival. The EAT Festival will be held May 30 through June 2, 2013.
For images from previous festivals and other LABAlive events, see our Facebook page.
The House of Study is the core program of the 14th Street Y's LABA:The National Laboratory of New Jewish Culture which produces art shows, theater, and educational opportunities for the whole community. For more information contact: Becky_Skoff@14streetY.org.
For press coverage of LABA:House of Study click here.
Ronit Muszkatblit, Co-Artistic Director and Festival Producer, was born in Germany and raised in Israel. She is a member of posttheater ny/berlin and a founding member of woken¹glacier theater company. Upcoming Children’s play – Moon Stars. Recent credits: Nature of Captivity by mathew paul olmos (Mabou Mines Suite @ PS 122) Cantaloupe by Gina Bonati (Laba, Boston ) I had a little voice (LABA); ON ART adaptation of ART by Yasmina Reza (Rohkunst Bau, Berlin); It is said the men are over in the steel tower by Hideo Tsuchida, adapted by Eriko Ogawa and Matthew Paul Olmos (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 (59E59, NYC),La Mama Umbria (Italy). Graduate of the Actors Studio Drama School.
Elissa Strauss, Co-Artistic Director and Journal Editor, is a freelance writer who lives in Brooklyn. She is an essayist and blogger who has written about gender, culture and religion for a variety of publications including Slate, Salon, the Village Voice, The American Prospect, MarieClaire.com, Jezebel, and the Forward, where she is also a contributing editor to the Sisterhood blog. She is currently working on her first novel which takes place in her hometown of Los Angeles, as well as a LABA book.
14th Street Y Staff:
Dr. Stephen Hazan Arnoff has served as Executive Director of the 14th Street Y since 2007. Previously, he was Director of Artists Networks and Programming at the Makor/Steinhardt Center of the 92nd Street Y and Managing Editor of Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture. Stephen was a Wexner Graduate Fellow at the Jewish Theological Seminary (2000-04), where he earned a doctorate in Midrash and Scriptural Interpretation. Winner of a Rockower Jewish Press Award for Arts and Criticism and a Mandel Jerusalem Fellow (2005-07), Stephen writes, lectures, and teaches on art, religion, music, and Jewish life widely. Most recently, he contributed chapters to Reading the Boss: Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Works of Bruce Springsteen (Lexington Books) and Dylan at Play (Cambridge Scholars Press). He also blogs at Talking Hava Nagila Blues. Stephen is married to Basmat and they have four children.
Shayna Kreisler is the Senior Program Director of the 14th Street Y. Shayna is a graduate of BBYO's Professional Development Institute, earned her Master’s in Business Administration at the Kelley School of Business, and has a Certificate in Informal Jewish Education from Hebrew College. Until this past spring, Shayna was the Director of Teen Leadership and Civic Engagement for BBYO, the international Jewish youth movement focused on experiential learning, leadership and civic engagement. Prior to building a movement of civically engaged and socially aware teens, Shayna earned her Master’s in Art Education from NYU. After NYU, Shayna taught art for grades K-12 in the NYC school system. For good measure, Shayna also worked in the world of advertising as an art director after earning her BFA in graphic design from the Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore. Shayna is an artist at her core who believes that art has the ability to effect real change and build community in powerful ways.
Becky Deitsch Skoff is the Manager of LABA, The National Laboratory for New Jewish Culture at the 14th Street Y. She is a graduate of the Master's program in Arts Administration at Boston University, and has worked for numerous nonprofit performing arts organizations throughout the U.S., including the Roundabout Theatre Company, the Citi Performing Arts Center in Boston, the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Gainesville, FL, and the New Harmony Theatre and Lincoln Amphitheatre, both in Indiana. She has also coordinated national educational tours with Chamber Theatre Productions. Becky is an alumna of the University of Florida, where she received her undergraduate degree in Public Relations and Theatre. She is the Programming Chair of the United Synagogue of Hoboken and is the founder and coordinator of a Torah study program for people in their 20's and 30's. Becky lives in Hoboken with her husband, playwright and attorney Judah Skoff.
Basmat Hazan Arnoff is a theater director. Notable credits include LeShem Yichud (Akko Theater Festival, Tel Aviv; Best Ensemble, 2006), See: Under Love (Tel Aviv, NYC, 2007), A Wonderfully Flat Thing (NYC 2010) and Binding (NYC 2010). Basmat was a Faculty Fellow at the Skirball Center for Adult Jewish Learning, and has taught at Kolot and Elul in Jerusalem, teaching theater in combination with Jewish text. She is author of Mayyim Hafoochim (Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2006), a Hebrew novel, and is currently working on her second novel. Basmat was born in Jerusalem and currently lives in Manhattan with Stephen and their four children.
Ruby Namdar was born and raised in Jerusalem. He completed his BA (Sociology, Philosophy and Iranian Studies) and his Master’s degree (Anthropology) at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His first book, Haviv, a collection of short stories, was published in 2000 and won The Ministry of Culture's award for the best first publication of the year. The manuscript also won The Jerusalem Fiction award for 1998. Reuven also published short stories, book reviews and translations of medieval Persian poetry in various literary periodicals in Israel. He is currently living in New York, is working on a new novel, and teaches Jewish and Israeli literature in various Jewish learning centers around the city.
Eve Chwast, a native New Yorker, earned her BFA in illustration from Parsons School for Design. Her editorial clients have included The New York Times, Esquire, Graphis, Print, Novum, Carole Publishing, and Pentagram. Between 1992 and 1998, Eve illustrated five children's books for Harcourt, Brace & Co. Several years ago, Eve began offering art workshops for children and adults at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn and Ossining Public School, as well as a teacher-oriented printmaking workshop at the Hackley School in Tarrytown. She also taught classes at Parsons to undergraduates and continuing-ed students (Printmaking Without a Press, 1994-95) and children (Painting and Drawing, 1999). From 2008 to 2011 she taught an art class at the Brotherhood Synagogue nursery. Since early 2006, Eve has been teaching art to children in the preschool and afterschool programs at the 14th Street Y. In April of 2009, she attended a study program in Reggio Emilia, Italy, on the Reggio approach to teaching preschool.
Jake Goodman, director of LABA kids, is a queer activist, Jewish educator and performer. He is a founding member of Queer Rising, a grassroots organization that demands queer rights through nonviolent direct action. His blogs can be found on The Huffington Post, Sh’ma Blog, The Daily Kos, Alef: The Next Generation and Pam’s House Blend. Jake is also a company member of Storahtelling, previously serving as Associate Director. In the theater world, Jake has worked at Actors Theater of Louisville, the Berkshire Theater Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Alma in Tel Aviv. He holds an MA in Experiential Jewish Education from the Davidson School at JTS and a BFA in Acting from Emerson College.
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 The Educational Alliance's network of programs throughout downtown Manhattan.
The 14th Street Y is deeply grateful for the support of the following foundations, whose generosity and vision has allowed us to launch LABA: The National Laboratory for New Jewish Culture:
The Nathan Cummings Foundation is rooted in the Jewish tradition and committed to democratic values and social justice, including fairness, diversity and community. We seek to build a socially and economically just society that values and protects the ecological balance for future generations; promotes humane health care, and fosters arts and culture that enriches communities.
The Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds are a group of Baltimore-based family foundations whose philanthropic contributions have had significant impact not only on the city of Baltimore, but nationally and internationally as well. The Funds support higher education, cultural arts, social services, community redevelopment and various Jewish causes.