Prayer Lab is back, in person, and ready to rock


Lucy Greenbaum

Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

You know how the song goes.

“Tradition!” Yes, the first song from “Fiddler on the Roof” talks about the traditions we keep as Jewish people. Traditions are good for the soul, but sometimes it’s good to break one, or even start a new one.

We say this, because after a COVID hiatus, a different way of celebrating Shabbat is returning. And perhaps some of you out there may be looking to start a new tradition?

Prayer Lab

Prayer Lab is a non-traditional Shabbat evening service combining contemporary readings and poetry, participatory music, time set aside for meditation and more.  Led by Rabbi Andrea Goldstein, Lucy Greenbaum and the Prayer Lab musicians, the program is sponsored by the Jewish Mindfulness of St. Louis and Congregation Shaare Emeth.

“Lucy brought the concept of Prayer Lab to Shaare Emeth and she and I have been collaborating on creating these services for almost two years,” said Goldstein.

However, two years ago, as Prayer Lab was getting started, COVID arrived, and the program was put on hold.

“It really was not possible to recreate Prayer Lab online during the pandemic – mostly because of the amazing harmonies made by the Prayer Lab musicians – but also because of the warm and intimate feel of these services each month,” explained Goldstein.

But now, Prayer Lab is back and in person, with two planned events before the summer.

“We will be exploring the theme of ‘Awaken’ on Friday, April 8, and the theme of ‘Repair’ on Friday, May 13. All are welcome to join us,” said Goldstein.

The music of Prayer Lab

According to the rabbi, there would be no Prayer Lab without musical director Greenbaum, who chooses the music and rehearses with the Prayer Lab musicians. The music included in these services comes from a variety of sources. Typically, in putting together a cue sheet for these services, Greenbaum thinks about songs that may or may not be liturgical in nature, but include themes of prayers seen in Shabbat liturgy and tie in with that month’s theme.

“Sometimes we even add Hebrew liturgy to the melody of a secular song, as we did recently with Chance the Rapper’s ‘Blessings’ and ‘Adonai S’fatai,’” said Greenbaum.

The group of musicians has fluctuated throughout the pandemic, but the driving force behind the “band” is giving attendees a musical base to latch on to, encouraging them to sing along and engage with the music.

Typically, the Prayer Lab band is least one guitar, a percussionist, a few singers and additionally, sometimes a bass, flute, mandolin, ukulele, or any other instruments that some in the group is inspired to play.

“We rehearse twice prior to each service, and all of our musicians are Shaare Emeth community members,” said Greenbaum.

Here is a look back at the Prayer Lab from last month.  If this entices you to want to try something new and potentially create your own new Shabbat tradition, let us know.

Upcoming Prayer Lab Dates

Friday, April 8, 6 p.m. – Awaken

Friday, May 13, 6 p.m. – Repair