For a (Forbidden) Fruitful Year

My name is Chanan Ben Simon, I am a vocalist, composer and a multimedia artist. Last year, I was a LABA ‘Broken’ fellow, and this year, I am thrilled to lead the new fabulous TABOO cohort, as the new Director of LABA NY.

Last year, LABA mended the Broken pieces of me with golden glue. For the first time, I was able to give a place of honor to my Jewish-Orthodox upbringing, together with my queer being. I have been exploring extended vocal techniques from a young age, and all of a sudden, when it met the non verbal Kabalistic letter combinations, a new language was formed. I named this piece “The Unvoiced” but only later I realized that with this piece, I was able to shed layers of expectations that were put on me during “The Voice” Israel, a reality TV show which I participated in when I was 23.

I believe that as humans, we know deep inside who we need to be, but often, in order to become that person, we need to break a lot of outer barriers along the way. As I ponder around our annual theme, TABOO, the verse from Proverbs 1:8, keeps on echoing. “Listen, my son, to your father’s morals and do not forget your mother’s teachings״. For me, TABOO is all of the places where we abandon our parents’ path. Usually, breaking taboos is very difficult, and makes me feel unstable, but this work, of looking at things as they are, and amplifying the voice within, helps us create a new path, the path that we were born to create.

A week ago, very close to the official start date of my new position as the Director of LABA NY, my beloved father, Marcel Ben Simon, passed away. My father used to fill the house with oil paintings made with his incredible talent, he used to sing to the flowers that would grow disproportionately, he would listen to torah lectures, read physics books into the night, loved jokes and magic tricks and spent over a decade trying to solve an unsolvable mathematical question. Even though it may seem like I went far away from my “father’s teaching” (and even literally crossed the ocean) I came to realize that we are actually very similar. 

I want to thank Laure Beatrix Newmark, for leading LABA NY in the past years with much love and care, for Ronit Muskablit, Director of LABA Global, for mentoring and supporting me in my first LABA steps, for Ruby Namdar for giving a new perspective on Jewish text, for my LABA ‘Broken’ colleagues for being simply the best, and for the team of the 14th street Y who welcomed me with open arms.

I wish us a rich year, full of delightful text-study and art making, and may we all understand that even though we may break many TABOOs this year, we are all tied with the same string, and even if we’d spend all of our life detangling it, we would always stay connected.

For a (forbidden) fruitful year,



Painting: The Garden of Eden With the Fall of Man by Peter Paul Rubens (figures) and Jan Brueghel the Elder (flora and fauna).