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Unique Rosh Hashanah service begins at Hammerstein Ballroom

MANHATTAN — The year is 5780 and at the Hammerstein Ballroom, there is a Rosh Hashanah service that is quite unusual and not just because it is "God optional."

“God optional is our way of saying whatever you believe is okay,” Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie, founder of Lab/Shul told PIX11 News. “If it’s Mother Earth, your inner self or some big spirit, it is a metaphor. We’re here to be fully present,” the rabbi added.

Using music and meditation, close to 1,000 people gathered at the Hammerstein Ballroom for the service which included a morning altar created by Day Schildkret.

“It has become an international movement of people going out into their backyards and collecting,” Schildkret, creator and author, told PIX11 News. “Whether it’s a breakup, a birth or a death, it’s a transition and it will all go back,” he added.

For some, this  everybody-friendly, God optional Jewish congregation is a perfect fit.

“It’s more open and inclusive than any other community I’ve been involved in,” sad Leidner. “And I have involved in many over the last 40 or 35 years. It makes you feel warm, comfortable and accepted, no matter who you are.”

His 13-year-old daughter, Sahara, added: “we’re not with our families, home alone. We’re part of a bigger community. We have a bigger family here as a community."

Throughout the next week, more than 5,000 members are expected to participate in this experience with programs on climate crisis consciousness, immigration rights and live performances.

“I’ve always left Lab/Shul services wanting to be a better person, wanting to make the world a better place and I never wanted it to end,” Sarah Sokolic, Executive Director of Lab/Shul, told PIX11 News.

Lab/Shul continues Monday with yoga-inspired morning worship, music and meditation. It all ends with a walk to the Hudson River.

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