By Laura Beatrix Newmark, Director of LABA NY

Hillel said many things in his lifetime but a particular few lines has gotten more air time in recent years than many other Rabbinic scholars.

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

If I’m only for myself, who am I?

If not now, when?”

Not only does it bring up the aged old Jewish question of answering a question with a question, it brings up the notion of choice. 

In February of 2020, in what now seems like worlds and times away, we decided upon the theme of CHOSE-N for LABA in the coming season. We loved the duality of the notion of chosen-ness and choice, and felt it augured well for a year of rich and difficult, deep and intriguing text and discussion. Little did we know that one month later, our worlds would be tossed topsy turvy and CHOSE-N, and the concept of choice, would take on myriad new and all too relevant meanings. As we were still amidst our LABA: HUMOR year, our first choice was to pivot from our 5 NIGHT LABA FEST into THE JEWNIGHT SHOW – PANDEMIC PASSOVER online. We doggedly worked as a cohort to put this up and were thrilled with the warm response. We even like to say we did it first, one week before actually, a group of famous celebrities did their own national broadcast of a pandemic Passover show. 

As our LABA hubs grew last year to not only include Buenos Aires and NY, but the East Bay in Northern California as well, we pondered how to best bring the Fellows together given our distance. As Zoom became the way to communicate both locally and internationally, our question was answered. On May 21, led by our fearless LABA Global Leader, Ronit Muszkatblit, who is currently based in Tel Aviv, a LABA Global session was held with past and present Fellows from all over the world joining in. 55 artists from around the globe — Buenos Aires, Berlin, Berkeley, Brooklyn, London, Tel Aviv, Sydney, Oakland and South Africa — joined the LABA Global Session. There we all collectively breathed, learned and mourned. And on that night, a true LABA Global was born, with warmth emanating from all around the globe.

Our final choice was to shift the fellowship from it’s usual September – June length and turn it into a January – December run. 

Next week, we will reveal the 2021 LABA – CHOSE-N FELLOWS. They run the gamut from a rapping rabbi in training to a VR experience of Berlin to an opera about the first Yiddish language dictionary. 

Image by Lily Padula, 2014