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 Villa. LABA uses classic Jewish texts to inspire the creation of art, dialogue and study. Participating 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 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.
Meet the 2021 LABA Berlin Fellows
This Year's Theme: Chosen
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.
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.
Paola is a gender-bending, accordion-playing storyteller from São Paulo, Brazil. As an actor and writer, Paola aims to provoke audiences through performances that subvert the norm. Paola (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 daddy 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.
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.
May 25th- July 27th - Tuesday Evening Session Meetings
August - October - Production Time and Preparation for Fall Events
November & December Live Programing in Berlin
LABA Berlin 2021 Program
*questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
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.