The LABA Berlin Creative Fellowship Program
LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture is a program that was first launched in 2007 at the ‘14th Street Y’ in New York’s East Village. The fellowship uses classic Jewish texts to inspire the creation of art, dialogue and study. Participating artists use the forum to create work which is featured in a final exhibition and performance series, and is also featured digitally. Every year LABA focuses its study around a theme. Previous themes include Paradise, Eros, Blueprint, Eat, Mother, Time, Beauty, Other, and Chosen. The theme for 2022 is Broken.
LABA hopes 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 results of this process will be presented online to a wide audience, having the potential to push the boundaries of what Jewish art can be and what Jewish texts can teach.
LABA Berlin is happy to be launching its second program year in 2022. Hosted by the Jewish Center Fraenkelufer Synagogue, currently engaged in constructing a new Jewish cultural and art center in Berlin, the initiative intends to bring together a group of creative personalities – a mix of visual artists, writers, dancers, musicians and actors – to study and discuss classical Jewish texts in the heart of Kreuzberg. As a group, they will explore what the future of Jewish art in Germany could look like. LABA aims to promote diversity and contribute to making Jewish art and culture present again in everyday German cultural life.
Participants will partake in a series of study meetings, after which the artists will be given time to translate the ideas that have emerged through exchange and reflection into new artistic works. These can be paintings, sculptures, video art, plays, dance performances, essays, books or other forms of expression. The group will regularly share their reflections and thoughts via working groups, writing reflections and social media. The results will be presented to the public in an exhibition in October of 2022.
Artists who produce particularly outstanding work may be invited to develop these projects with the support of the broader LABA network and to present them elsewhere in Germany and possibly also in other places in the network, such as New York, Berkley or Buenos Aires. We hope to initiate a lively exchange of Jewish cultural creators nationally and internationally.
Fellows will each receive a stipend of €1200 for their participation in the learning sessions and exhibition planning. Additional funding will also be available to each fellow to produce their final works for the fall exhibition.
LABA Berlin 2022
This Year's Theme is BROKEN. We are broken vessels, and we live, according to Jewish mysticism, in a broken vessel. The chaos is never-ending, as is our longing to put the pieces back together. Don’t be scared. Our brokenness, as individuals, as a people, and as a society, is what pushes us to think, feel and change. All the things that make life interesting, that make it worth living, despite the suffering and struggle, come from brokenness. Except, of course, for those times when the brokenness is just too much and the only possible outcome is tragedy.
Art sits at the intersection of the tension between the longing for wholeness and the inevitability of brokenness, as do Jewish texts. They push us to imagine a more unified, perhaps, utopian existence, while at the same time wrestling with the fault lines upon which we all exist. In 2022, LABA will dive into the pain and pleasures of brokenness through our study of ancient Jewish texts, as we contemplate the ways in which brokenness is foundational to the Jewish tradition, and the ways in which brokenness plays out in our individual psychology and the world around us. Layered into this, we will also consider our dual-edged impulse to heal, which can just as easily lead us to a remedy as it can disillusion us–particularly in this age of self-optimization.
Weekly Learning Sessions:
Thursday evenings from May 12th-26th
Wednesday evenings from June 1st - July 13
July - September - Production and Preparation for Exhibition
August 14th - LABA Berlin Summer Event
Mid-September - Exhibition Orientation / Final Meeting
October Exhibition in Kreuzberg
*questions and comments to email@example.com
The LABA Berlin Team
Dekel was born in Tel-Aviv, grew up in New York City and has been living in Berlin since 2002. As president of the Jewish Center Fraenkelufer Synagogue Association, Dekel spearheads efforts to rebuild the main sanctuary of the Kreuzberg Synagogue as a community, cultural and arts center. He is also the founder of Eruv Hub – Germany’s first coworking space facilitating collaboration between Berlin’s most innovative Jewish initiatives. Dekel is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Max-Weber-Institute of Sociology of Heidelberg University and the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity.
Bryan is a New Yorker of German background who has been based in Berlin since 2009. He studied Economics at New York University, and European History at Humboldt University in Berlin the University of Vienna. Bryan has worked in the historical tourism and events sector in Berlin for much of the last decade, and since 2020 has been managing a number of cultural programs and projects for the Jüdisches Zentrum Synagoge Fraenkelufer.
Director of Arts
Olaf is a painter, winner of the Isracard and Tel Aviv Museum of Art Prize of 2008, and was included in the jurors' pick of the 2014 Thames & Hudson publishing's book, "100 Painters of Tomorrow." Since 2009 Olaf has been living with his family in Berlin, yet continues to work regularly as an artist between Berlin and Tel-Aviv. Olaf "is" Israeli and German, but neither one of these stories. Questions about identity formation and constant transformation have been a motivating force and substance throughout his life and practice as an artist. Olaf earned his MFA from the Parsons School of Design in New York.
Director of Arts
Rachel grew up in Berlin with a mix of cultures and nationalities in her home. She is an artist and a thinker, who's work focuses on shifting perspectives of history. Her practice is interdisciplinary, curatorial and often involves elements of performance and installation. After spending 15 years in New York, Rachel returned to work in Berlin. She holds a BA in Visual Studies from Harvard University.
The LABA Berlin Scholars and Advisors
Tal is the director of the Paris Yiddish Center — Medem Library (Maison de la culture yiddish — Bibliothèque Medem), in which he also teaches Yiddish literature and Jewish history and culture. In 2016 he founded Mikan Ve’eylakh: Journal for Diasporic Hebrew (Berlin & Paris), of which he is editor-in-chief. In 2017 he founded "Yiddish in Berlin", a summer program for Yiddish language and literature in the Free University. He is currently directing Jacob Jacobson, an apocalyptic tragicomedy written in Yiddish in 1930 by Aaron Zeitlin.
Yael is a doctoral fellow at the Research Training Group Minor Cosmopolitanisms at the University of Potsdam. In her current research project, she seeks to trace the constitutive role of Jewish colonial experience in North Africa as formative to Modern French Jewish thought. For many years, Yael has worked as a guide at museums in Israel and Germany, among them, Yad Vashem, ANU museum of the Jewish people and Jewish Museum Berlin. She also co hosts the podcast of her doctoral program called: minor constellations.
Rabbi Jeremy Borovitz is the Director of Jewish Learning for Hillel Deutschland, which he founded together with his wife Rabbi Rebecca Blady. Jeremy grew up in New Jersey, spent several years in the Ukraine and has been living in Berlin since 2019. He has previously worked for the Peace Corps, the JDC, and Moishe House. He is also the founding president of the US Friends of Fraenkelufer association.
LABA 2021 Alumni
Yael Nachson Levin
Yael is a Berlin based Israeli singer-songwriter, author, producer, and artistic director. She is the founder of the non-profit cultural salon called FRAMED e.V. and also wrote a weekly column in the Berliner Zeitung which later came out as a book (Aufbau Verlag), released 2 solo albums, the latest of which in 2019 under the Berlin based record label LowSwing with some of the world’s leading jazz musicians. Yael has produced dozens of theatre, art and musical shows in Europe, America and the Middle East. Yael earned her BFA from the New School in New York.
Director LABA Global
Ronit 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 on opera, theater and multi disciplinary events. She received her MFA in directing from the Actors Studio Drama School and trained at La Mama Umbria (Italy) and with Siti Company.
Julia is a writer originally from Ojai, California. Her work has appeared in publications such as BOMB, VICE, Guernica, and the Believer, among others. She received a BA and MFA from Columbia University in creative writing and has taught at the Cooper Union, Columbia University, and Baruch College. The recipient of a Fulbright Grant, she has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the Wassaic Project, Vermont Studio Center, Monson Arts, Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, and the Catwalk Institute. She currently resides in Berlin, Germany, where she is at work on a novel about the life and journalism of Joseph Roth.
Noa is a Berlin-based multidisciplinary artist. Heyne works in sculpture, performance, and animation; she creates installations that emphasize the physical involvement of the viewers and are influenced by marionette theater and architecture. Heyne studied painting and comparative literature in Jerusalem, and received her MFA in sculpture from the Maryland Institute College of Art (2017), where she also held a position as an adjunct professor in 2018. She is the recipient of several awards and fellowships, among them the ZK/U residency, Berlin (2019); Culture Zone residency, Wroclaw, Poland (2020); Sculpture Space, Utica, NY (2021).
Rachel was born in Prague and grew up in Munich, where she studied at the Academy of Fine Arts. Since 1993 she has been living in Berlin as a freelance sculptor and has been supported by the Künstlerförderung Berlin and the Stiftung Zurückgeben. In 2009 she constructed a memorial for murdered children of forced labourers in Otterndorf, Lower Saxony and in 2016 a 12 meter high installation in the Jewish community hall in Nuremberg. A lot of her Judaica has been given to german politicians as gifts from Jewish organisations. Rachel has been on the board of the Frauenmuseum Berlin since 2007 and member of BBK Berlin, Verein der Berliner Künstlerinnen 1867 and sculpture network. In 2020 she co-founded the activist group fair share for women artists.
Rachel is a multidisciplinary artist whose research-based practice examines the construction of history and the enduring power of images. Working across collage, installation, video and performance, Libeskind appropriates and recontextualizes images in order to disrupt imposed boundaries – between the personal and public, ancient and contemporary, societal and cultural – and reveal unexpected parallels. Libeskind has presented solo exhibitions, installations and performances at Center for Jewish History, New York; Watermill Center, Long Island; Pioneer Works, Brooklyn; Bombay Beach Biennale; Mana Contemporary, Miami. She holds a B.A. with honors from Harvard University.
Gur is an Israeli Jazz guitar player and composer based in Berlin. Gur majored in Jazz at the prestigious Thelma Yellin High School, before taking up the classical guitar for his studies in Jerusalem. In 2013 after studying with Jazz guitar legend Peter Bernstein in New York, Gur moved to Berlin and soon became involved in its rapidly evolving Jazz scene. He performs and records regularly with some of the scene’s most promising musicians, as well as in his hometown of Tel-Aviv and around Europe. He also studied Literary studies at the JFK institute at the Freie Universität Berlin.
Anna was born in Moscow and immigrated to Israel in 1992, living and working in Berlin since 2018. She merges different disciplines and mediums in her practice combining; painting, drawing, textile, new media, installations, and performance, with participatory and community-based projects. Her work explores collective sub consciousness and individual self-identity, as they appear in cultural structures and everyday situations. Her solo exhibitions include: ‘Right of Passage’ in Haifa Museum of Art, IL, 2012. ‘Wasteland’ representing the Israeli embassy in Art Beijing art Fair, CHN, 2013. ‘Layer No 2’ Beeri Gallery, accompanied by an exhibition catalogue, IL, 2017. And ‘Layer No 5’ at ‘Ha Hader’ project space, TLV, IL, 2019.
Zero is a gender-bending, accordion-playing storyteller from São Paulo, Brazil. As an actor and writer, Zero aims to provoke audiences through performances that subvert the norm. Zero (who uses “daddy” as a gender pronoun) graduated from California Institute of the Arts with a BFA in acting and creative writing. During a residency at Double Edge Theatre, daddy developed the solo show Ithaca, which premiered December 2017 at the Electric Lodge in Venice, USA. Paola is a Flausen+ Young Artists in Residency 2020 fellow and a recipient of the 2017 Tim Disney Prize for Excellence in the Storytelling Arts for the original play People Who Love Move Mountains. Currently in development are a dystopic queer Spaghetti Western TV series and a new solo show 27 Club. You can also catch Zero performing regularly in bars and clubs throughout Berlin as Mojo, the Sword Swallower of Switzerland – part of the Drag King collective Venus Boys.
Tomer is a Berlin-based Israeli choreographer, director, performer and teacher. After graduating from School of Dance Arts at the Kibbutzim College, Tel-Aviv, he moved to Germany in 2013, where he founded the Tomer Zirkilevich Company. He is actively involved in the German independent dance scene, creating and producing most of his works between Berlin and Munich. His works have been shown in various festivals and venues around Europe including: My David & SODOM; Infidelity: A love story; Like Father Likes Son (part 2); Auf Wiedersehn and more. His video dance Sachliche Romanze won several prizes in festivals around the world. Tomer works in the fields of physical theater, screen-stage performance and video dance. His pieces deal with conflicts of values and social norms.