A Year In Reflection from LABA NY

When I was CHOSEN to lead LABA NY for the 2019-2020 cycle, it was thrilling to have the opportunity with a fellowship that had been so deeply impactful to me for four years. From the first study session I came to in 2015 when “A Serious Man” was being discussed in the year of BEAUTY, I was hooked, and relished every Monday night study session, DRUNK, and LABAlive I could attend. In 2016, I became the Staff Fellow for the year of OTHER and savored creating a piece about the feelings of otherness in becoming a mother.

Cut to March 2019, and we are preparing for the first ever LABA FEST with the LABA HUMOR Fellows in early April. It becomes abundantly clear that this will not be happening and one of our Fellows pivots to a full LABA cohort online production of THE JEWNIGHT SHOW: PANDEMIC Passover. We pull it off and all enter our respective Seders fully immersed in the modern plague of COVID-19. Interestingly, we had already CHOSEN the theme of CHOSEN for the next LABA cycle but had to to keep pushing the start till finally we settled on our January 2021 kick off. While the study sessions on Zoom were meaningful and it was abundantly clear that the group was indeed CHOSEN, we yearned for greater connection.

That happened in May 2021, when the fully vaccinated group met in the Theater at the 14Y for our first in-person study session. It was electrifying, meaningful, joyous, warm, funny, and deeply impactful. We all felt that something was happening and our LABA year was officially commencing. Since that session, we’ve studied each month in person and have now finished our incredible 4 LABAlives. On December 6, we concluded LABA CHOSEN with the LABA Feast of Memories, our seder-like evening of shared dishes, stories, and reflection. In a year of so much pain, loss, sadness and hardship, LABA has stood as a beacon of light cracking through the extreme darkness and reminding us of the power of community, art, ancient Jewish text and wisdom, connection, and good bourbon.

From Parashat Ekev, “Chosen, for the world is broken, to lift up scattered sparks.” And with that, we begin again in 2022 with LABA BROKEN.

Laura Beatrix Newmark, director of LABA NY