LAURA BEATRIX NEWMARK is the Director of LABA at the 14th Street Y. Her work at the intersection of the arts, media, activism, community building and Jewish programming spans two decades.
At the 14th street Y’s LABA program, where artists study Jewish texts together and nurture their own work, we were supposed to do five nights of performances this spring—and we couldn’t. But we did put together a show—“Jewnight Show Pandemic Passover.” It was terrifying to do all this virtually.
It turns out we were ahead of the curve, as everything went virtual. Yet human beings need to be around people. It’s a nice interlude to provide theater virtually, but it’s hard not to connect in person.
In the meantime, to cope, I’ve been consuming comedy. We need it. From the beginning, the funny videos people post, the angst, the parodies are the only thing giving me comfort. The viral video of an Israeli mom complaining about having to homeschool (“Now, our children will find out how dumb we are. It’s not right!”) is a perfect example: comedy that gives us a release.
I had actually picked humor as the theme for LABA this year—we had a long discussion about how in Jewish humor there’s this balance between observant and profane, between intimacy and shared trauma; it’s all rooted in struggle. I think we are going to see interesting humor emerge. And just making people laugh is important.