LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture

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, a NYC-based artist fellowship program in which approximately 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 here 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, OTHER, LIFE + DEATH, HUMOR, CHOSEN, and BROKEN. This year’s theme is TABOO.

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.

In 2014, LABA was named one of the most innovative Jewish organizations in North America by the Slingshot Guide, and also received a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts.

In 2020, LABA was one of 5 organizations to receive inaugural funding from the newly created CANVAS, working to support the 21st Century Jewish Cultural Renaissance.

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The LABA theme for 2023 is TABOO. 

Clean. Dirty. Sacred. Profane. Okay. Not okay. We moderns like to think we are better than this. That we see beyond these moral categories and inhabit a muddied middle ground, an infinite gray area, in which life, people, things, are complicated. But the reality is we are no less a stranger to the concept of taboo than our ancient ancestors, whose understanding of life took shape through an articulation of boundaries. We are, always and forever, people who do and people who don’t.

From the moment Eve bit into the forbidden fruit, there has never been, and never will be, human psychology or collective existence without taboos. We need them to know what to say yes to and no to. And, equally important, we need them to have something to transgress. Taboos are a central component of the Jewish psyche and the artist’s psyche. These boundaries and borders illuminate truths, foment desire, and articulate fear and shame. They are the bridges between the subconscious and conscious, which make them some of the sharpest tools we have in our meaning-making toolkits.

Next year at LABA we will dive into the mysteries and power of TABOO in the ancient Jewish canon, unpacking and debating this human impulse and tapping into the ways in which it can fuel our creativity. Most importantly, we’ll have a great time talking, eating, drinking, learning, and laughing in the lush, fertile, free-flowing, romantic, super-serious, and endlessly playful environment of LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture

Applications are now closed. 

LABA Taboo

Seeking NYC-based artists and culture-makers from any creative field to dive into the mysteries and power of TABOO in the ancient Jewish canon, unpacking and debating this human impulse and tapping into the ways in which it can fuel our creativity. 

This LABA season runs January to December 2023, with summer months focused on developing your LABA project.  

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LABA Website

From incubated projects to details on current and past fellows, see all that LABA has to offer on their main website. 

Learn More About LABA

Meet the 2022 LABA Fellows

Every year LABA selects a group of ten fellows to join us for a yearlong study of classical Jewish texts centered around a theme. The current year’s theme is BROKEN.

Meet the 2022 LABA Fellows


Learn more about LABA NY, upcoming events and their fellows! 

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LABA Supporters

LABA is supported by CANVAS—a collaborative giving fund dedicated to Jewish arts and culture.