Application for LABA East Bay Artist Fellowship 2020

LABA: A Laboratory for New Jewish Culture will launch at the JCC East Bay in 2020. LABA is a non-religious, Jewish house of study and culture laboratory which uses classic Jewish texts to inspire the creation of art, dialogue and study. The program began in New York City in 2007 at the 14th Street Y, and expanded to Buenos Aires in 2015.

Learn more about LABA East Bay here:


Every year, LABA selects a group of 8-10 fellows, a mix of visual artists, writers, dancers, musicians, actors, and other culture-makers, to study classic Jewish texts in a non-religious, open-minded, and accessible setting. The yearly curriculum is centered around a theme, and previous ones include Beauty, Paradise, Eat, Mother, and Time. The 2020 theme for LABA will be Humor, and will be explored through writings from the Torah, Talmud, Mishnah, and Zohar alongside select contemporary texts.


LABA East Bay fellows create new work in response to these texts, which will be read, exhibited, and performed at the JCC East Bay as part of our LABAlive series. Each of these events will combine culture with a text teaching, along with a nosh and wine, and will be open to the public. LABA East Bay’s goal is 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 creative output from our House of Study pushes the boundaries of what Jewish art can be and what Jewish texts can teach.


Humor is busy. It can yield joyful communion, and existential dread. It can be a weapon or defense, and a sign of despair. It can create tension, and relief. It can give us a sense of belonging, and the feeling that, when it really comes down to it, we are destined to be alone. The best part? It does all this at once.

Jews, well, we’re known to be funny. This year at LABA East Bay, we will trace our instinct for the wry one-liner, the “tight-five,” and the legions of High Holiday pulpit jokes back to the very beginning. Ancient Jewish texts contain lots of humor in a variety of flavors. There’s satire, wit, double-speak, and vulgarity. We will look at how this humor functions, how it’s colored our self-perception, and why we can’t quit it.

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 East Bay: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture.



1.) Who can apply to LABA East Bay?

Anyone who is curious about classic Jewish texts; wants to study them in a non-religious, non-moralistic, and non-academic manner; and has a desire to use ancient Jewish texts to enrich their creative endeavors. Maybe you're a rabbi, or maybe you've never read a single page of the Torah in your whole life. It doesn't matter. Everyone will be welcome as long as they are up to approaching texts in this fashion. Also, LABA East Bay defines culture-makers very broadly. This includes artists, dancers, actors, musicians, composers, writers, dancers, directors, as well as chefs, landscape architects, video-game designers and more.

2.) What kind of time obligation is LABA East Bay?

Fellows will meet every 3-4 weeks throughout the year for a three-hour study session, held in the evening. (Likely from 6-9 PM.) There will be 10-12 study sessions in total, beginning in January 2020 and ending in December 2020, with a short break over the summer months. Fellows will also be expected to work on a LABA East Bay project, which they will present at one of the LABAlive events. There is no expectation for these projects to be finished in full.

3.) Do LABA East Bay projects have to be about Jewish texts or Jewish themes?

Not necessarily. The goal of LABA East Bay is for the ideas, feelings, and contradictions of Jewish texts to inspire new work. Sometimes this yields work that is identifiably Jewish, other times it is not.

4.) Is LABA East Bay a paid fellowship?

Yes! LABA East Bay fellows will receive an $800 study stipend, to attend the study sessions. There will also be additional production support available for the LABAlive events.

5.) What happens at a LABAlive event?

There will be approximately 4 LABAlive events during 2020. These events will feature a presentation of LABA projects from 3-4 LABA East Bay artist fellows, alongside short teachings by a LABA scholar of the texts that inspired the work. They will always be open to the public, and will include a wine and a nosh.



Join us for DRUNK, LABA East Bay’s launch event, on November 23, 2019.

“There is wine and there is wine, so also there is a cup and there is a cup, and all is, this for good and this for evil.” Zohar II:246b

You’ve had wine paired with food, now try wine paired with texts. Join LABA artists, ancient text scholars, and a local sommelier as they explore the complexities and contradictions of inebriation through teachings, tastings, and performances.

DRUNK originated at LABA in New York, where it has been a sold-event for five years and running. Read more about DRUNK in New York here:



Please fill out the application below by September 30, 2019.
Fellows will be announced by November 1, 2019.
Please send any questions to:
Name *
Your answer
Email *
Your answer
Your answer
Phone number
Your answer
Artistic discipline: What do you do? *
Your answer
Please provide a short bio and artist's statement. This is your chance to give us a sense of your work, your accomplishments, and your ambitions. (200-400 words) *
Your answer
Please link to, or paste, 2-3 examples of your work. Make sure that they best represent the scope of your work and can give us an insight into your artistry. (We prefer you link or paste your work, but if that's not an option feel free to email work to:
Your answer
What interests you about LABA East Bay and what do you hope to gain from it? (50-100 words) *
Your answer
What interests you about studying HUMOR? (50-100 words) *
Your answer
Please explain your project idea or work-in-process that you feel could benefit from a year of investigating HUMOR. We really want to see the potential for how a year of exploring the subject with LABA East Bay could enrich your work. This can be something you've been working on for years, or a tiny spark of an idea--either way, be specific. (We don't want to hear that you plan to figure it out along the way.) Please note, your work does not need to be funny! However, we do hope that you will be inspired by the messiness, contradictions and humanity that lie at the heart of humor. (100-200 words) *
Your answer
Tell us about your experience studying Jewish texts. Remember, nobody is turned away because they have done too much or too little text study. *
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