LABAlive Programs

LABA: A Global Laboratory for Jewish Culture Presents:

LABAlive IV: Who’s Your Choice?

TEACHING by Ruby Namdar  
Annie Berman

The Faithful: The King, The Pope, The Princess 
A lollipop officially licensed by the Vatican sparks filmmaker Annie Berman’s 20-year exploration of fandom, memorabilia, memory, and legacy within the orbits of three of the biggest cultural icons of our time: Pope John Paul II, Elvis Presley, and Diana, Princess of Wales.

About Annie Berman 
Annie Berman is a NYC based media artist. Her work has shown internationally including MoMA, Spring/Break Art Show, and the Rome Independent Film Festival where she was awarded Best Experimental Film. She teaches documentary film writing at City College, holds an MFA from Hunter College, and is a member of the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective.

Arts + Culture + LABA + Theater Staff

Ronit Muszkatblit, Senior Director of Arts + Culture + LABA Global
Kryssy Wright, Theater + Technical Director
Laura Beatrix Newmark, Director of LABA NY

About the 14th Street Y

The 14th street Y is a vibrant community center grounded in the belief that contemporary Jewish sensibilities can be a source of inspiration, connection, and learning for the individuals and families we serve throughout downtown Manhattan. We focus on health and fitness, education and enrichment programs, and innovative arts and cultural programming.
We are committed to the development of the whole person and bettering people’s lives and strengthening individual and family connections by building an inclusive and sustainable community.

The 14th Street Y is part of Educational Alliance’s network of community centers in Lower Manhattan. We believe strong communities can transform lives. Our programs turn strangers into neighbors and provide New Yorkers access to quality education, health and wellness services, arts and culture, and civic engagement opportunities.

Season of CHOSEN

This year at LABA we are contemplating the various ways in which Jewish culture dealt with chosenness throughout its long history. We will study an array of Jewish texts, both ancient and contemporary, that ponder chosenness in myriad contexts from the tangible to the intangible. From marginalization to the inequality of destiny, superman myths to the daunting choices past, present, and future, we will delve into and explore ancient text and modern times.
We are exploring the power of choice from all angles. What does it feel like to choose? What does it feel like to be chosen? And how do we know whether it is our time to do one or the other?

About the 14Y Theater 

The Theater at the 14th Street Y’s mission focuses on social awareness and change through big picture narrative. Inspired by works that welcome artists of all backgrounds, we place artists as the heart of our community and seek to create an inclusive cultural experience for all.

About LABA: A Global 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, 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 and LABA Fest events and performances. Every year LABA focuses its study around a theme. Previous themes include Paradise, Eros, Blueprint, Eat, Mother, Time, Beauty, Other, Humor and Chosen. The 2022 theme will be BROKEN.
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.

LABAlive, an evening of art, performance and teachings inspired by Jewish texts, makes  its exciting return to the Theater at the 14th Street Y.

To learn more about LABA, visit
LABA: Global Artists Delve into Jewish Texts

Previous LABAlive Programs:

LABAlive III: Destiny’s Choice

TEACHING by Ruby Namdar  
LANGUAGE IN A BREATH by Samantha Lish/Lish Lab  
Sam Sussman

The Brothers Sussman
From New York to Hebron, ‘The Brothers Sussman’ chronicles conflicting relationships to American and Jewish identity and the ineffable conflicts that endure within families.

About Sam Sussman 
Sam Sussman is a writer whose work has been recognized by BAFTA and Cannes. He has written for the Tel Aviv Review of Books, Haaretz, Dissent, and the Oxford Review of Books, and taught writing seminars in India, South America, and Europe. Sam is co-founder of Extend, an NGO that offers immersive learning in Israel–Palestine and has been featured at the UN. He holds degrees in philosophy, literature, and politics from Swarthmore and Oxford.

Collaborators and Cast 
Lili Rosen (Unorthodox) – Yosef Sussman
George Blumenthal (Wall Street) – Ben Sussman
Mark Katz (The JewNight Show) – Simon Sussman

Ben Kaplan

The Great Dictionary of the Yiddish Language 
An Opera in Two Acts  
Libretto by Ben Kaplan; Music by Alex Weiser
The Great Dictionary of the Yiddish Language is a new full-length opera based on the true story of Yiddish linguist Yudel Mark, who in 1950s post-war New York City sets out to write the world’s first fully comprehensive Yiddish dictionary – an effort of linguistic preservation, and a memorial to the dead. As Mark clashes with colleagues over the dictionary’s size and scope, he is haunted by the three Alefs—Komets, Pasekh, and Shtumer—three divine emanations of the Yiddish language who compel him to breathe new life into Yiddish. The opera invites audiences to consider the extent to which a language and a culture can be saved, the nature of grief, and the power of language itself to transform and shape us into who we are.

Historical Note
Yudel Mark and Max Weinreich were two major figures in the history of Yiddish linguistics and scholarship. The characters in this opera draw inspiration from their lives— their efforts to uplift the Yiddish language, and their hopes for Jewish culture. Much of the content in this opera is based on true events and conversations that have been adapted for the stage. The creators owe a particular debt to Leyzer Burko, whose scholarship on the history of Yiddish linguistics has shed light on this story. For those interested in learning more, the YIVO Encyclopedia also has articles on both Mark and Weinreich, along with a wealth of other information documenting this history.

About Ben Kaplan 
Born in Brooklyn, NY, librettist Ben Kaplan currently serves as Director of Education at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. His libretto for State of the Jews, an opera written with composer Alex Weiser, tells the story of Theodor Herzl and the toll his political activities took on his family life. His next libretto, for another opera collaboration with Weiser, is about the controversies surrounding a great Yiddish dictionary.

Collaborators and Cast
Shtumer Alef — Kristin Gornstein
Komets Alef — Krysty Swann
Pasekh Alef — Blythe Gaissert
Yudel Mark — Jason Weisinger
Max Weinreich — John Taylor Ward
Evening Directed by Ronit MuszkaTblit


We wish to express our heartfelt thanks to the many individuals who aided in the creation of this work. Thank you to Ruby Namdar, Stefanie Halpern, Sam Sussman, Ronit MuszkaTblit, Laura Newmark, Kryssy Wright, Sandra Levykh, Elinor Milchan, Eudice Winer, Leyzer Burko, and Dovid Braun who provided invaluable input during the development process of this opera. We are also very grateful for support from the 14th Street Y’s LABA that helped make The Great Dictionary of the Yiddish Language possible.

Samantha Lish

Language in a Breath (Gallery)
The infinite spirit manifested by and embodied in the form of each Hebrew letter that was chosen by G-d at the beginning of time, continues to play a unique and dynamic role in forming the world we live in. This digital painting collage series was made from the superposition of many layers and brush strokes based on creational insights from Kabbalistic, Midrashic, and Talmudic sources.

About Samantha Lish
Samantha Lish is an emerging visual artist and NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholar pursuing a DPhil in Theoretical Physics. Both her scientific research and artistic work focus on the transformation of an amalgam of abstract parts and geometries into meaningful information that contribute to the origin of life. Her mixed media conceptual artworks juggle this simultaneous macroscopic and microscopic view of the universe and endeavor to communicate universal laws and truths inherent to human creativity and natural wonder. Offering a refreshing degree of visual complexity, Samantha breaks down theological, scientific, and philosophical ideas by depicting their elemental components. She hopes to shed new light on the evolving Jewish narrative by make seemingly esoteric concepts from biblical literature more accessible. The penetrating quality of her work is recognizable for its abstracted form and choice of subject matter, which challenges the viewer to ask questions


TEACHING by Ruby Namdar on 10/14/2021 
TALKBACK by Doron Perk and Mindy Pfeffer on 10/15/2021 
Doron Perk

Grandfather Visit 

Grandfather Visit is a solo dance performance in memory of Prof. Kalman Perk. In July of 1944, in a crowded cattle wagon headed to the death camps, 14-year-old Kalman was chosen by his family to survive by escaping through the narrow window. As his grandchild, Doron chooses to keep his memory alive by using the moving body as a vessel for feelings and sensations inspired by the many visits to him in the last few years of his life.

About Doron Perk 
Doron Perk studied in the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance in Israel and received scholarships from The America – Israel Cultural foundation during the years 2003-2008. Doron danced in The Croatian National Theatre Ballet (HNK) in Split, The National Dance Company of Spain (CND) in Madrid, and The Batsheva Ensemble – The Young Company in Tel Aviv. Doron has been a Gaga Movement teacher since 2015 and a dancer in ZviDance since 2016.

Collaborators and Cast 
Choreography and performance: Doron Perk
Light design and stage production: Kryssy Wright
Stage Manager: Rachel April
Music: Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor Op 64 – Kyung Wha Chung with Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal  | Bird sounds | 51 bpm Metronome | Tzadik Katamar and Hora Haktana – Effi Netzer band | Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Op.20 Neapolitan Dance – Mary and Momo Kodama | How A Spiral Works – ASUNA, Jan Jelinek

Kalman Perk’s testimony:

Special Thanks  
Nat Wilson
Lea Friedman
Alison Clancy
Dan Safer
Mindy Pfeffer


TEACHING by Ruby Namdar 
HOW TO LIVE by Mindy Pfeffer 
Mindy Pfeffer

How to Live examines xenophobia, repressed memories, and the struggle to heal, ultimately setting the power of healing in the arts and in our connection to each other. Maria Pfeffer became one of Poland’s leading family therapists in the late 20th century after a traumatic childhood experience during World War II.  Her father did not speak for a year, only reading Shakespeare, to heal the psychic wounds he received after a beating at the hands of Nazis.

About Mindy Pfeffer 
Mindy Pfeffer is an actor/playwright/solo performer/teaching artist/native New Yorker. She has appeared in over 60 plays in NYC and regionally. Her short and long plays have been produced in many small theaters. Mindy’s solo play about training for an Ironman triathlon was seen in several Fringe Festivals and off-off Broadway. She uses puppetry and theatre to teach about social justice and inclusion in NYC schools. Member AEA, Dramatists Guild.

Collaborators and Cast 
Adolf Pfeffer (Maria’s father) – James Hallett
1940s Maria Pfeffer Orwid – Jacqueline McCarthy
University Admissions Officer – Danielle Delgado
Therapist – Christine Bruno
1980s Maria Pfeffer Orwid – Danielle Delgado
Piotr (shopkeeper) – James Hallett
Klara Pfeffer Orwid (Maria’s mother) – Christine Bruno
Marc Szulc (Maria’s life partner) – James Hallet

Directed by Jean Randich

Dvir Cahana

Bachurs Can’t Be Choosers 
When you are Chosen, do you even have the choice to not heed the call? The question of every artist. Join Dvir “RiviR” Cahana with special guest artists, Rabbi Ronnie Cahana (poet), Amy Harlib (contortionist and performer) and Milo (6-year-old artist prodigy) on an exhilarating rap exploration as he unpacks this question.

About Dvir Cahana 
King David had his slingshot, Samson had his hair and Dvir Cahana has his lyrics. Whether it be through his Rap Battles of the Bible series, Moishe House Albums or his rock opera book report assignments, Dvir dances through life with a musical filter. As a hip-hop artist in his first year at the rabbinic school, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, Dvir hopes to use his music as a means to allow people to access their spirituality.

Collaborators and Cast 
6-Year-Old Artist Prodigy – Milo
Rabbi/Poet – Ronnie Cahana
Contortionist/Performer – Amy Harlib