LABA Berlin was launched in 2021 in partnership with the Jewish Center Fraenkelufer Synagogue, an organization engaged in building a new Jewish cultural and art center in the Kreuzberg district. It is located in a soon to be reconstructed synagogue destroyed during the Second World War.
LABA BER will bring together a group of international creative personalities based in Berlin – Israeli, Russian, American, German – reflecting the rich diversity of Jewish life in modern Germany. A mix of visual artists, writers, dancers, musicians and actors – our group studies and discusses classical Jewish texts in the diverse, beating heart of Berlin. As a group, we explore what the future of Jewish art in Germany could look like, promoting diversity and contributing to making Jewish art and culture present again in everyday German cultural life.
Our hub was launched in 2021 as a part of the national theme year,“1700 years of Jewish Life in Germany”, during which programs around the country explored the relationships between Jews and Christians in Germany – both today and thoughout history. The artistic angle on 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 and working in Germany.
Dekel was born in Tel-Aviv, grew up in New York City and has been living in Berlin since 2002. As president of the Jüdisches Zentrum Synagoge Fraenkelufer, Dekel is spearheading efforts to rebuild the main sanctuary of the Fraenkelufer Synagogue as a community, cultural and arts center. Dekel is the founder of Eruv Hub – Germany’s first coworking space facilitating collaboration between Berlin’s most innovative Jewish initiatives. He 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 Fellbusch - Operations Director
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 and the University of Vienna. Bryan has worked in the historical tourism and event management sector in Berlin (and across Europe) for much of the last decade, and since late 2020 has been the Operations Director of the Jüdisches Zentrum Synagoge Fraenkelufer, overseeing a number of cultural and community focused programs.
Olaf Kühnemann - Creative Director
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 in Berlin and Tel-Aviv. Olaf “is” Israeli and German, but not exactly either one of these stories. Questions about identity formation and constant transformation have been a motivating force and substance throughout his life, and his practice as an artist. Olaf earned his MFA from the Parsons School of Design in New York.
Rachel Libeskind - Creative Director
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. As one of our 2021 LABA Alumni, Rachel is our newest addition to our team.
Rabbi Jeremy Borovitz - Resident Scholar
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.
Yael Attia - Resident Scholar
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.
Dr. Tal Hever-Chybowski - Resident Scholar
Tal is the director of the Paris Yiddish Center — Medem Library (Maison de la culture yiddish — Bibliothèque Medem), where he 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.
Arc, a collaborative work by Tomer Zirkilevich, Noa Heyne and Anna Mirkinperformed November 6th 2021 at Salon am Moritzplatz
Drumroll please… or maybe, more appropriate – a whisper. we’re excited to announce that the next LABA theme is NIGHT.
NIGHT, in the Jewish imagination, is both a matter of time and a state of mind. Our days begin at night, the arrival of three stars is our first sign of tomorrow. Our calendar is lunar, our months and years obsessively coordinated with the waxing and waning of the moon. Our festivals are backlit by the orb at its fullest.
Night is more than a time marker, however. It is also a paradoxical psychological state, when urges too messy, too irrational, and too wild for the day emerge, whether through dreams or behaviors or habits or the thoughts that only voice themselves at 3 am. Night is obscurity, but it is also clarity. Night is freedom, but it is also sometimes cruelty. Only in darkness can some truths be revealed. The cosmos began with night, and from night the very atoms humming our bodies came. We can never know ourselves fully, as a person or a people, without a deep understanding of night.
This year at LABA we will explore the theme of NIGHT in the ancient Jewish canon. We will look at how and why NIGHT anchors us, liberates us, terrifies us through a study of evocative stories from the Torah, Talmud, Mishnah, Zohar and more. We will consider the role of NIGHT in the life of culture-makers, and the ways in which culture-makers are the “NIGHTS” of people — truth-tellers, tricksters, beauty-makers, and deep sea subconscious divers. Most importantly, we’ll have a great time talking, eating, drinking, learning, and laughing in the lush, fertile, free-flowing, romantic, super-serious, and endlessly playful environment of LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture.
We invite you to point your flashlight towards uncharted territories–places you might cherish, wish to destroy, or both– and propose new work inspired by what night brings up in you. All mediums accepted, and the strange and unconventional are always welcome.
Noa Heyne and her sculpture as part of the collaborative work Arc, at Salon am Moritzplatz, November 6th-15th
The Gur and Julia Showperformed at Framed on December 4th 2021
The Gur and Julia Showperformed at Framed on December 4th 2021
Dr.Alma Itzhaky is an artist and scholar based in Berlin and Tel-Aviv. Rooted in painting and drawing, her work addresses questions of place and locality, of urban environment and nature, and the relations between humans and nature. Alongside her work as an artist, Itzhaky is a researcher in both political and art philosophy. Her PhD dissertation discusses political action in contemporary art in light of Hannah Arendt’s philosophy of action. She is currently a Minerva Fellow at the Leibniz Center for Literary and Cultural Research, where she explores environmental imaginaries in Palestinian and Israeli art – the engagement between contemporary art and collective perceptions ofthe local environment and its history.
Itzhaky exhibited numerous group and solo exhibitions, including the Tel Aviv museum, the Hertzelia museum, and Hezi Cohen Gallery. Her residency programs include the NARS foundation residency and the Drawing Center viewing program – both in NYC. She’s won notable prizes including the Rappaport Prize for a Young Artist (2014), and the Osnat Mozes Painting Prize (2012). Itzhaky taught at Shankar College and at the Tel Aviv university.
Hagar Ophir is an artist, costume designer, and performer. Trained as a historian, stage, designer and dancer, her works establish history as a space for action and imagination of possible presents beyond separations of time, nation-states and ideologies. She is currently working on her solo exhibition Bound in the Bundled of The Living (working title) at Soma Art, Berlin (April-May 2023). Her recent works include “Recalling History I,” a performative intervention in the production of knowledge (Fundació Tàpies, Barcelona), and “It Is Only Through Your Thoughts That I Can Remember Who I Am” (in collaboration with Hakim Bishara) (Kunsthall 3.14, Bergen). Hagar’s works as an independent artist and a member of Public Movement (2008-2019) were performed and shown worldwide, including at the Jewish Museum Frankfurt am Main, Asian Art Biennial Taipei, Santarcangelo festival.
Working collaboratively in creating knowledge through art and education is part of her practice. In 2020, with five artists and teachers, they founded the Berlin-based collective: mitkollektiv, where she was a co-director of the art and education project Reimagine Jetzt! (funded by the PFCB 2020-2021)
Anisia Affek (1989, Ukraine) is a multidisciplinary artist based in Berlin. She holds a BA degree from Shenkar College for Art and Design in Tel-Aviv and a MA degree from Weißensee Academy of Art in Berlin. Affek’s practice concerns issues of cultural erasure and the survival of identity in oppressive environments.
Deeply influenced by her Ukrainian-Russian-Mongolian heritage, Affek works mainly on handmade, large-scale embroidery pieces that push the boundaries of the traditional craft. While using embroidery both as a form of expression and as an object of research, Affek evokes a spiritual space that reaches beyond the Western notions of belonging and the suffocating dichotomy of «us» versus «them.»
Anisia Affek’s artistic practice has won several awards and fellowships, including Stiftung Schöppingen in Germany, (2021), Ateljé Stundars residency in Finland (2021), Young Artist Award from America Israel Cultural Foundation, USA, (2016). Her work has been shown in independent venues and galleries around Ukraine, Israel, Germany, Finland, and Australia. In 2021, she formed a female art space—«A Room of Her Own» in Berlin.
David Krippendorff is a US/German interdisciplinary artist and experimental filmmaker. Currently based in Berlin, he grew up in Rome, Italy, and studied art at the University of Fine Arts in Berlin, where he graduated with a Masters degree in 1997. His works, films and videos have been shown internationally, including: the New Museum (New York), ICA (London), Hamburger Kunsthalle (Hamburg), Museum on the Seam (Jerusalem). He has participated in five Biennials (Prague, Poznan, Tel Aviv, Belgrade and Asunción), as well as in many international art and film festivals worldwide. His works are included in many contemporary art collections, museums and institutions.
The son of a Holocaust survivor and the grandchild of practicing Nazis, cultural contradiction and dislocation shaped Krippendorff’s experience early on. His artistic practice inquires into this state of being a “permanent foreigner” and explores resulting questions of home, national and cultural identity, and belonging.
Jordan Lee Schnee / דזשאָרדןלישניי is a writer, musician, and translator based in Berlin, where he is pursuing a doctorate in comparative literature at the Freie Universität. His PhD project examines the concordant poetics of Kabbalah and OuLiPo texts. Schnee’s music projects include Robert Hand, בלינדערשניי, and the Rixdorf Rounders. Schnee has translated many writers from Yiddishland, Europe, and South America and worked closely with the Eloísa Cartonera publishing project in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is a part of the arts and literature collective Yiddish.Berlin. Recent publications of his own work include Unapprehension / Entfassung (Propeller, 2019/2021) and “טײַטשװערטער / denotations” (Aphaia, 2021).
Kari Rosenfeld(b. Houston, TX) is an interdisciplinary artist based in Berlin. Engaging with ontology, political and social affect, religious and mythological narratives, image, and genre, their work affirms the heartbreaks, fantasies, and complications of attachment.
They have degrees in American Studies and Philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin and an MA in Art Praxis from Dutch Art Institute. They co-founded the Cairo Institute of Liberal Arts and Science-Alexandria, were a resident of Spring Sessions (Amman, Jordan), and have had their work recently exhibited at Gasworks, London, Humberstreet Gallery, Hull, and Motto Books, Berlin.
Michaela Kobsa-Mark is a U.S.-German documentary filmmaker based in Berlin. Her work focuses on diaspora identity in Germany and takes a participative, humorous and intimate approach. She is interested in examining political issues through the complexity, contrasts and contradictions of peoples’ lived experiences. Her work is influenced by ethnographic practices, her run ‘n gun background, and her general search for things that are too difficult to be fully grasped. She has worked on a number of documentary and participatory projects in Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East. These projects have been shown in international film festivals, community screenings and in educational settings. She currently studies documentary directing at the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg.
Liad Hussein Kantorowicz is a performance artist, musician, perpetual migrant and master of the margins. Her Performances de-exotify and de-mystify the positions of so-called sexual and political deviants. In them, the body is used as a tool of education, resistance, a platform to display vulnerabilities and as means of transgressing the boundaries of the public spaces while calling for a revolution. Her current research topic is knowledge extraction from the experience of the professionally displaced.
Her work has been shown at the 10th Berlin Biennale, Impulstanz Festival in Vienna, Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin, Sommerfestival in Kampnagel, Hamburg, City of Women festival in Ljubljana, CPH:DOX Copenhagen, Schwules Museum Berlin, Arcola Theatre and ICA, London, and in queer and punk bars and live on the street across Palestine, Europe and North America. She’s a graduate of the Solo/Dance/authorship MA program at HZT/UDK Berlin. Her work and world view is informed by years of organizing Palestinian-Israeli direct actions in the West Bank, Palestine, in building radical queer community in Palestine through political actions and cultural events, and decades of organizing for sex workers’ rights across three continents. ‘Nothing to Declare’, the debut album of Liad’s musical project Liadland is set for release this May.