Creative Fellowship Program
thank you to all those who applied!
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. LABA uses classic Jewish texts to inspire the creation of art, dialogue and study.
Part of LABA is an artist fellowship program for which a group of culture-makers, a mix of visual artists, writers, dancers, musicians, actors and others, study classic Jewish texts together in a non-religious, open-minded setting. The artists use the forum to create work which is featured digitally and in a series of events and performances. Every year LABA focuses its study around a theme. Previous themes include Paradise, Eros, Blueprint, Eat, Mother, Time, Beauty, Other, and Humor. The theme for 2021 is CHOSEN.
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 a new artist fellowship program launched in cooperation with LABA Global housed in New York. Hosted by the Jewish Center Fraenkelufer Synagogue, currently engaged in constructing a new Jewish cultural and art center in Berlin, the initiative will 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 several months 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 with the public via social media. The results will then be presented to the public in two joint performances and exhibitions in November and December. The presentations will take place in established Berlin venues, integrating self-confident Jewish cultural creativity into Berlin’s culture.
Artists who produce particularly outstanding work may further 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. This is intended to initiate a lively exchange of Jewish cultural creators nationally and internationally.
This Year's Theme: Chosen
Chosenness sounds like an ancient, archaic concept that stands in sharp contrast with our contemporary claim that all humans were created “special”. But is that really so? Does not the book of Genesis, the foundational myth of our monotheistic civilization, tell us that Abel, Adam’s son, was chosen over Cain, his brother? Do we not recognize, in spite of ourselves and our cultural conditioning, that some of us are more inspired, have a greater potential, and a more dramatic calling?
This year at LABA we will contemplate the various ways in which Jewish culture dealt with chosenness throughout its long history. We will study an array of Jewish texts, both ancient and contemporary, that ponder chosenness in myriad contexts from the tangible to the intangible. From marginalization to the inequality of destiny, superman myths to the daunting choices past, present, and future, we will delve into and explore our ancient text and modern times.
1700 Years Jewish Life in Germany
LABA Berlin is being launched as a part of the theme year “1700 years of Jewish Life in Germany.” This topic of "choseness” that we will be working with is also of great relevance to the vicissitudes of the relations between Jews and Christians in Germany – both today and over the past 1700 years.
It was during the pivotal reign of Roman Emperor Constantine, 1700 years ago, that Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire, leading to its eventual adoption into the structures of the Holy Roman Empire – from which today’s Germany developed. The nuanced tension between Judaism and Christianity surrounding the claim to be ‘chosen’ is both fascinating and relevant up to this very day. Ironically, this deep common cultural, religious and textual heritage is what became the stumbling block.
The artistic elaboration of this complex topic is intended to create an innovative approach to this 1700-year-old tension and provide insights into the perspectives of contemporary Jewish artists living in Germany.
Who Can Apply
Artists and culture-makers from any creative field: choreographers, performers, curators, visual artists, directors, composers, writers, film-makers, comedians, fashion designers and more.
Your passport is not important - everyone with a connection to Germany is invited to apply.
No previous knowledge of Jewish texts is required for fellows. What is required is a desire to study these texts in an intellectually rigorous setting.
The program will run from May - December 2021, with summer months focused on group meetings and developing your project. We will begin program with virtual meetings due to the pandemic, but plan to resume in-person when allowed. Your physical presence for later meetings and the final presentations will be expected.
LABA artists will each receive a one-time stipend of 1200€.
**There are no additional stipends for travel and accommodation costs. However, artists will receive creative and administrative support in various forms, and funds for their final project production. Participants will be expected to contribute at least once to social media with a brief post or an artistic reflection during the program.
*We will begin digitally and hope to return to in-person meetings in June.
Application Deadline - April 16th
Selected applications will be invited to a follow-up Zoom interview held during the last 2 weeks of April.
Notification of Acceptance - by April 30th
First Meeting - online May 11th (7pm)
Session Meetings - Tuesday evenings from May 25th until July 27th (7 to 9pm) starting digitally
August - October - production time in preparation for the live events, in contact with artistic directors
November/December Programing - Artists will partake in one or more events, to be discussed
*questions and comments to email@example.com
**all given information is for internal use only
Meet The LABA Berlin Team
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.
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.
Bryan is a New Yorker of German background who has been based in Berlin since 2009. He has studied at New York University, Humboldt University in Berlin, and is in the process of finishing an MA in European History at the University of Vienna. Bryan has worked in the historical tourism and cultural sectors in Berlin for much of the last decade and has previously assisted with event programming for the Fraenkelufer Synagogue.
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.
Yael Nachson Levin
Director of Arts
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 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.