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 our House of Study, an artist fellowship program for which 10 to 15 culture-makers, a mix of visual artists, writers, dancers, musicians, actors and others, are brought together to partake in a serious study of classic Jewish texts in a non-religious, open-minded setting. The fellows use the study to inspire work which is featured in our bi-monthly online journal and our series of LABAlive events and performances.

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. 

For more information contact:

See photos of LABA events here.

For press coverage of LABA:House of Study click here.

Creative Staff:


Ronit Muszkatblit, co-artistic director, was born in Germany and raised in Israel. She is a theater director and the founding member of woken’glaicer theater company and Operatzia as well as a member of posttheater ny/berlin. Ronit curates and directs in various capacities with a focus ion opera, theater and multi disciplinary events. Her most recent directing credits include all the LABALive events and the operas “SPHINX” (Culturemart HERE) and “3WEEKS” (MAP grant, 14th st Y) both  by Yoav Gal . Her most recent theater credits include: “Hanna and the Moonlit Dress” by Itzchak D’miel (14th St. Y), “Nature of Captivity” by Mathew Paul Olmos (Mabou Mines Suite @ PS 122), “Cantaloupe” by Gina Bonati (Boston ); “ON ART,” an adaptation of “Art” by Yasmina Reza (Rohkunst Bau, Berlin); “It is said the men are over in the steel tower” by Hideo Tsuchida,(TBG Theater, NYC); Struwwelmensch (Rohkunst Bau Festival, Berlin);) “Matchmaker Matchmaker” (Stadts Bank Berlin); “Quartet” by Heiner Müller (Westbeth Theater, NYC); “The Child Dreams” by Hanoch Levin (Staged Reading 59E59, NYC). Ronit received her MFA in directing from the Actors Studio Drama School and trained at La Mama Umbria (Italy) and with Siti Company.

Elissa Strauss, co-artistic director and journal editor, is a freelance writer who lives in Brooklyn. She is an essayist and blogger who has written about gender, culture and religion for a variety of publications including the New York Times, Salon, The American Prospect, Jezebel and the Forward, where she is a contributing editor to the Sisterhood blog. She is currently working on her first novel which takes place in her hometown of Los Angeles.



Ghiora Aharoni, creative adviser, founded his multi-disciplinary studio for art, architecture and design in Manhattan in 2004. Prior to opening his own studio, Aharoni worked at several distinguished architectural firms including Studio Daniel Libeskind and Polshek Partnership. Since establishing his studio, Aharoni has designed numerous projects in New York. His artwork, furniture designs and installations have been exhibited in New York and in India, and are in private collections in the U.S. and Europe. He holds a Master of Architecture from Yale University.


14th Street Y Staff:

Shayna Kreisler is the Senior Program Director of the 14th Street Y. Prior to working with LABA at the Y, she earned her Master’s in Business Administration from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, her Masters in Art Education from The Steinhardt School at NYU, and her bachelors in Fine Art from the Maryland Institute, College of Art. Shayna has been an arts educator in the NYC public schools system, has worked for BBYO, Inc, an International Jewish Youth movement, building community across the globe through civic engagement, and she has worked in advertising and design as an Art Director for a top Philadelphia ad agency. Shayna is an artist at her core who believes that art has the ability to effect real change and build community in powerful ways.


Becky Deitsch Skoff is the Manager of LABA, The National Laboratory for New Jewish Culture at the 14th Street Y. She is a graduate of the Master's program in Arts Administration at Boston University, and has worked for numerous nonprofit performing arts organizations throughout the U.S., including the Roundabout Theatre Company, the Citi Performing Arts Center in Boston, the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Gainesville, FL, and the New Harmony Theatre and Lincoln Amphitheatre, both in Indiana. She has also coordinated national educational tours with Chamber Theatre Productions. Becky is an alumna of the University of Florida, where she received her undergraduate degree in Public Relations and Theatre. She is the Programming Chair of the United Synagogue of Hoboken and is the founder and coordinator of a Torah study program for people in their 20's and 30's. Becky lives in Hoboken with her husband, playwright and attorney Judah Skoff.

Teaching Faculty:


Ruby Namdar was born and raised in Jerusalem. He completed his BA (Sociology, Philosophy and Iranian Studies) and his Master’s degree (Anthropology) at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His first book, Haviv, a collection of short stories, was published in 2000 and won The Ministry of Culture's award for the best first publication of the year. The manuscript also won The Jerusalem Fiction award for 1998. Reuven also published short stories, book reviews and translations of medieval Persian poetry in various literary periodicals in Israel. He is currently living in New York, is working on a new novel, and teaches Jewish and Israeli literature in various Jewish learning centers around the city.

The 14th Street Y

The 14th Street Y, a Jewish community center in the East Village, is a vital neighborhood resource that welcomes people of all backgrounds. We provide a variety of programs with a distinctive downtown point of view, emphasizing excellence, innovation, creativity, and a questioning spirit. We are inspired by tikkun olam, or repair of the world, in all that we do -- a value that represents and renews the vitality of our Jewish heritage and its place in our diverse and vibrant community. The 14th Street Y is a proud part of The Educational Alliance's network of programs throughout downtown Manhattan.