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LABA East Bay

LABA East Bay: A Laboratory for New Jewish Culture launches at the JCC East Bay in JAN 2020. 

LABA is a non-religious, Jewish house of study and culture laboratory which uses classic Jewish texts to inspire the creation of art, dialogue, and study. The program began in New York City in 2007 at the 14th Street Y, and expanded to Buenos Aires in 2015. Read about LABA East Bay in the j.Weekly.

Learn more about LABA East Bay on the program's website:

The House of Study

Every year, LABA selects a group of 8-10 artist fellows, a mix of visual artists, writers, dancers, musicians, actors, and other culture-makers, to study classic Jewish texts in a non-religious, open-minded, and accessible setting. The yearly curriculum is centered around a theme, and previous ones include Beauty, Paradise, Eat, Mother, and Time. The 2020 theme for LABA will be Humor, and will be explored through writings from the Torah, Talmud, Mishan, and Zohar alongside select contemporary texts.

LABAlive Events

LABA East Bay fellows create new work in response to these texts, which will be read, exhibited, and performed at the JCC East Bay as part of our LABAlive series. Each of these events will combine culture with a text teaching, along with a nosh and some wine, and will be open to the public. 

LABA East Bay’s goal 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.

The Theme: Humor

Humor’s busy. It can yield joyful communion, and existential dread. It can be a weapon or defense, and a sign of despair. It can create tension, and relief. It can give us a sense of belonging, and the feeling that, when it really comes down to it, we are destined to be alone. The best part? It does all this at once.

Jews, well, we’re known to be funny. This year at LABA East Bay, we will trace our instinct for the wry one-liner, the “tight-five,” and the legions of High Holiday pulpit jokes back to the very beginning. Ancient Jewish texts contain lots of humor in a variety of flavors. There’s satire, wit, double-speak, and vulgarity. We will look at how this humor functions, how it’s colored our self-perception, and why we can’t quit it.

Please note, the work created during the humor year does not need to be funny! However, we do hope that you will be inspired by the messiness, contradictions, and humanity that lie at the heart of humor.

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 East Bay: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture.

LABA East Bay Team

Elissa Strauss - Artistic Director
From 2012-2017, Elissa co-directed LABA in New York alongside Ronit Muszkatblit. She is a writer who covers culture, gender, and parenthood. Currently a columnist for, her essays, op-eds, and reported pieces have appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Glamour, ELLE, the Forward, and elsewhere. 


Sarah Wolfman-Robichaud - Program Director
Sarah comes with an extensive background in theater and music performance, as well as lecturing/leading workshops on arts education and arts for social justice in academic, educational, and community settings.  Sarah most recently managed the programming department at Arts Umbrella, the largest arts education organization in Canada.  When not singing lullabies to her children, Sarah is the JCC East Bay’s Director of Public Programs.  

Rabbi Joshua Ladon - Lead Teacher
Josh is the West Coast Director of Education for Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. He received a BA from Washington University in St. Louis and subsequently lived in Jerusalem for seven years, completing an MA in Jewish Thought at Tel Aviv University. He received rabbinic ordination from the Shalom Hartman Institute. He is currently a Doctoral student in Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Previously, he was the Dean of Student Life and Jewish Life at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay.


Read more about DRUNK in New York.

"Four Wise Men Entered Paradise" by Mirta Kupferminc, Director of LABA Buenos Aires. Etched Aquatint. 2005.

 The JCC East Bay is in partnership with Shalom Hartman Institute to offer LABA East Bay