Dear Lab/Shul Community,

It’s been super hot in Israel. As you may know, there’s been a lot of tension here these past few weeks, rippling out from the Temple Mount, palpable everywhere. Israelis shrug and say ‘every two years we have a summer war’. Others say ‘It’s the three weeks.’

The three weeks that lead from the first Summer day of fast to the biggest one coming up are known as the “Days in between the Troubles” and “The Three Weeks.” I arrived in Israel on the first of these troubled days of dread and am getting ready to leave this coming Sunday, just as they end. I arrive in NYC in time for Tisha B’av – the grand finale – the fast for the temple’s burning and all other national Jewish traumas. It has been dubbed ‘Judaism’s saddest day of the year.’

Tisha B’av is about reflecting on the calamities of history, but this year we at Lab/Shul would like to not only to reflect on and learn from the past, but to focus more on the present– how we can pause to grieve – and rise.  It is a day in which we fast to embody the sense of loss, all so that we yearn to fill it with our best intentions for renewal.

Every year, Lab/Shul is testing new ways to mark this day of what is broken, and with it, begin our ascent towards a new year and the High Holy Days. We rise each year from the rubble of loss to reaffirm that which binds us all together.

This year, we’re doing it a bit more informally – gathering towards the end of the day, in a circle on a lawn. Please join me,  Naomi Less, with Lab/Shul’ers Libby Lenkinsky from New Israel Fund and Ronit Muszkatblit from LABA @14th Street Y to share stories, songs, reflections and hopes, focusing on our relationship with Israel, the country, state and people.

We want to sit and talk about the walls that divide us – in Israel, and among all of us for whom Israel, in so many different ways, really matters. Please bring vegetarian-friendly plates to share for a peaceful potluck.

I’m looking forward to being back with our community to share fresh stories and voices from Jerusalem and all over Israel – I’ve kept busy…  Remind me to tell you about the Sufi-Jewish whirling ceremony in Jaffa, the Mezuza ceremony in the Faerie Sanctuary on the Gaza border, the rising voice of young political energy in Tel Aviv, the LGBT adoption rally, the new cafe in Jerusalem’s former Leper Colony and the literally kitchen-wisdom-teaching from the wife of one of Temple Mount Imams.

I’m excited to be back and co-create our upcoming high holy season with many of you. Stay tuned for info and invites for creative collaboration very soon. This year – we’re becoming full circle, and we’ll start with a circle on the lawn.

Let’s sow in tears and reap in joy,


'The Atlantic' Features Amichai: "We’re Headed Toward One of the Greatest Divisions in the History of the Jewish People"
Becoming Full Circle: High Holy Days with Lab/Shul