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, 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 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. This year’s theme is CHOSEN.

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. 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.

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The LABA theme for 2020-2021 is CHOSEN.

Chosenness sounds like an ancient, archaic, concept that stands in sharp contrast with our contemporary claim that all humans were created “special”. But is that really so? Does not the book of Genesis, the foundational myth of our monotheistic civilization, tell us that Abel, Adam’s son, was the chosen over Cain, his brother? Do we not recognize, in spite of ourselves and our cultural conditioning, that some of us are more inspired, have a greater potential and a more dramatic calling? Is our artistic journey, like all other human endeavors, really comprised of one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration, or is it more correctly described by the cruel words of the great Zero Mostel: “Or you have it, or you don’t”?

This year at LABA we will contemplate the various ways in which our culture dealt with chosenness throughout its long history, and 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, including this year’s impending national election, we will delve into and explore our ancient text and modern tomes. Most importantly, we will have a great time studying, drinking and creating art together in the lush, fertile, free-flowing, romantic, super-serious and endlessly playful environment of LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture.

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 2021 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. This year’s theme will be CHOSE-N.

Meet the 2021 LABA Fellows

LABA’s Blog

Learn more about the current LABA fellows as they explore the theme of chosenness for the 2021 season.

Learn More


LABA Supporters

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