Coming to a Taxi Near You!

Check out this promo video for Thrive NYC’s Weekend of Faith For Mental Health, led by First Lady Chirlane McCray and hitting taxi screens across NYC today!

Lab/Shul is proud to be joining 1000+ houses of worship to reach a quarter of a million New Yorkers, spotlighting the issue of mental health to break down stigma and educate. Join us.

Sabbath Queen
May 19th @ 6pm / The Sirovich Center

Click HERE for mental health resources, info, and help.

I’m Finally Ready to Reveal…

Join Lab/Shul for the celebration of our fourth year + the revelation of our groundbreaking response to intermarriage and the evolving identities of Jewish Americans.
June 13, 2017
7-10 pm
Manny Cantor Center
197 East Broadway NYC

• VIP Reception for Welcome Committee and VIP Guests
• “Welcome Home Monologues” Live Performance of True Stories from Our Community
• Keynote Presentation by Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie with Anita Diamant, Prof. Steven M. Cohen, Dr. Tobin Belzer, Sensei Robert Chodo Campbell and Sensei Koshin Paley Ellison
• Dessert and Wine Reception
• Live music with the Lab/Shul All-Stars + Special Guests
“Everybody-Friendly” is one of Lab/Shul’s defining taglines, but it is so much more: It is our path towards more welcoming, diverse, and vibrant communities everywhere. It is our vision of communities that build more bridges and fewer borders, that include rather than exclude, and that fear less and love more. Lab/Shul’s been pushing the envelope on this and many other fronts, and on June 13th, 2017, we’re going to push it farther.
Join us on a rooftop overlooking the Lower East Side to celebrate “Everybody-Friendly” and to be part of a moment that redefines who and what is Jewish in 21st Century America.
Since his rabbinic ordination in May 2016, Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie has been leading a research team exploring historical, sociological, and legal Jewish sources on intermarriage. They discovered applicable models of fluidity, inclusion, and participation in Jewish life that transcend the limitation of binaries and transform our contemporary views of what it means to belong.
On June 13th, Rabbi Amichai will reveal this research, present a bold proposal, and discuss its radical implications in an open conversation with distinguished speakers: Anita Diamant, Prof. Steven M. Cohen, Dr. Tobin Belzer, Sensei Robert Chodo Campbell and Sensei Koshin Paley Ellison.

One in Five: Lab/Shul joins Thrive NYC on Mental Health Focus

One in five New Yorkers are dealing with some sort of mental health challenge. This was just one of the startling facts I learned yesterday from New York City’s First Lady. 

Chirlane McCray, very elegant and super friendly, hosted local faith leaders and mental health professionals from all over the city for a festive breakfast at Gracie Mansion. I was honored to be invited and asked to lead a session about the power of storytelling in overcoming addiction and seducing the soul towards recovery and renewal. 

The breakfast was part of the important Thrive NYC project, spearheaded by the first lady, taking on the growing epidemic of substance use and mental health issues for New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds. On May 19th, Lab/Shul will dedicate our Sabbath Queen Friday night worship event at the Educational Alliance’s Sirovich Center to this critical cause. As part of the second Thrive NYC Weekend of Faith, we will join more than 1000 houses of worship all over the city who will shed light on a suffering that is far too often needlessly suffered in silence. 

Read the New York Time’s article: Chirlane McCray Enlists New York Clergy in Mental Health Outreach

I learned a few other astonishing and heart breaking facts yesterday, as well as some compelling and important take aways that can help me be a better source of support. Together, Lab/Shul can be more conscious of what we can do as a community to foster care and sensitivity towards each other – especially towards those of us in often invisible need. 

NYC is seeing higher numbers of mental health needs and is in the midst of a steep rise in the number of deaths due to overdose. Interventions are possible and the role of clergy and communities are now a major point of focus within the roadmap of important tools developed by the Thrive NYC team.  

Clergy are the second responders to people’s mental health needs, coming after psychologists but before MD’s, family or friends. Also: clergy suffer from higher rates of depression, and need their own heavy dose of self love and support of others to keep on going… Good to know. 

What’s storytelling got to do with all this? 

With Passover still fresh in my mind, I shared the story of how only one in five of the enslaved Hebrews chose to leave Egypt. Four of five stayed behind in familiar slavery instead of taking a risk to change for something better. 

How does that story meet the one in five figures we just heard? 

How do stories – sacred, ancient, modern, ours, and those of others – help us make sense of our lives and map out roads for recovery? 

Stories, I suggested, can seduce the soul to confront addiction, substance abuse and other mental health challenges. Story IS substance – one of the oldest and most powerful tools we as human posses to cultivate courage to change, empathy with all forms of suffering, and the resilience to hope and have big visions for better living.  

I held up a small framed picture with two quotes that I had just received as a Passover gift. One of the quotes,  by R. Nahman of Breslov, reminded us: “The Exodus from Egypt occurs in every human being, in every era, in every year, and in every day.” 

Lab/Shul is proud to be included in this important conversation and project. We look forward to exploring our paths together further on May 19 and in the months ahead, as part of our missions towards better balanced lives. There may not always be a happy end, but the road can certainly hold more care, compassion and love. 

Here’s to the stories that will help us seduce our souls and the soul of society – for good. 

Thank you First Lady and your tireless team!

– Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie
April 20, 2017 

Judaism Unbound, Episode 29: Lab/Shul – Amichai Lau-Lavie

What role do art and artists play in contemporary Judaism? Amichai Lau-Lavie, founder, Executive Director, and Spiritual Director of Lab/Shul, joins Dan and Lex to kick off a unit of episodes exploring that question in detail. He speaks about his own experiences leading an artist-driven community, and he takes on a variety of related questions on issues ranging from technology, to pluralism, to literature, and more.

Click here to read more and listen to Judaism Unbound, Episode 29 featuring Amichai.

Click here to learn more about Lab/Shul’s Kaddish ritual, which takes place via phone.

Wishing you a Better Bitter

My morning’s task: grinding several pounds of horseradish into the bitter batter that will provide spoonfuls of tears at this year’s Seder. Of all gastro-Judaic treasures, horseradish is my favorite flavor and one of my most sacred annual tasks. I learned it from my father.

On April 11th, 1945 my father Naphtali, age 19, was liberated from Buchenwald. Growing up, Passover Seders always had multiple layers of meaning for our family, with the sorrows of enslavement and the reality of liberation never too far away. Only now I realize how much of my father’s horseradish making on the eve of this holy night was about the creativity of celebrating continuity, and perhaps also a bitter-sweet revenge.

This year Passover falls on April 11th. It’ll be up to me, my siblings and our children to continue his legacy by telling his incredible saga of transformation from slavery to liberation. We’ll dole out spoonfuls of bitterness, sweeten with sticky mortar, and drink to life, focusing on the radical optimism that is at the root of the Exodus story – then and now, for our people and all people.

At another Lab/Shul family Seder, Jack, 13, will be leading. Jack is an amazing young man, participating in our Raising the Bar B-Mitzvah journey along with other teens and their families. His mom Rhona, who serves on our Board of Directors, wrote this deeply moving and super funny account – “My Atheist Son Is Leading Our Seder, and It’s Going to Be Awesome.”

We’re kvelling and so glad to share with you just in time for your own Seders, hopefully rich with old and new traditions, familiar and fresh flavors, deep questions, real conversations, big hugs, and open doors to more hope within us and in our world. (Looking for a few last min readings or thought provoking questions to add to your ritual dinner theater? We’ve got you covered!)

You can also turn these sacred messages into action at our Weekly Action this Thursday (JRFEJ’s Seder in the Streets) and next Saturday at Shabbat AM + Earth Day 4/22.

May all the flavors of these holy days, bitter and sweet, bring us a taste of what it’s like to be even better when we’re together.


– Rabbi Amichai


Lab/Shul Organizing will regularly update a proactive opportunity for us to show up for justice together as a community + a curated a selection of tools, resources, and organizations to help your personal, communal, and national efforts.


Monthly family-friendly musical morning worship events + Storahtelling-style adult learning, kids programs, and nosh.

Saturday, April 22, 2017
9:30am – 10:00am: God-optional adult study salon w/ Amichai
10:00am – 12:30pm: worship, kids programming, and Storahtelling
12:30pm – 1:00pm: hands on activities with our social justice community partners

Judson Memorial Church – Entrance on 243 Thompson St. NY, NY 10012