Poet Jake Marmer (right) recites his poetry at LABA's DRUNK event at the JCC East Bay in Berkeley, Nov. 23, 2019, accompanied by guitarist John Schott. (Pete Rosos)
Poet Jake Marmer (right) recites his poetry at LABA's DRUNK event at the JCC East Bay in Berkeley, Nov. 23, 2019, accompanied by guitarist John Schott. (Pete Rosos)

East Bay Jewish arts lab seeks 2021 fellows — pandemic or not

LABA East Bay, an incubator and study program for Jewish artists run by the JCC East Bay, is in search of its second cohort of Bay Area artists.

LABA fellows spend a year creating new work, in any art medium, in response to selected Jewish texts and themes. Absent a pandemic, they present or perform these works through a series of events in the Jewish community. Founded in New York in 2007, the program has now expanded to Buenos Aires, the East Bay and a fourth branch is in development in Berlin.

For the second cohort, which will begin in 2021, LABA has selected the theme “CHOSE-N.” Applications are open through Nov. 23 for creative types who’d like the stimulus — artistic and financial — for their creative work in the coming year.

The theme will be an exploration of Jews as a “chosen people” and the continuing obligation to make personal choices in life, says artistic director Elissa Strauss.

“Few of us have a healthy relationship with chosenness. How could we? The notion that we, as individuals, have something special, and that specialness needs to be shared with the world just doesn’t sit right,” she said.

“Even more uncomfortable is the idea of communal chosenness, which just so happens to be a major plot point in ancient Jewish literature.”


RELATED: Getting drunk on Jewish texts and arts at LABA launch


Many plans for the first year of LABA East Bay were derailed by the pandemic.

“There’s no denying that the pandemic threw us for a loop,” Strauss said. “We were not able to perform in the theater at the JCC East Bay, or bring that LABA energy to JCC classrooms and after school programs. We’re sad [some of] the work that was supposed to be brought into the world this year for LABA never made it out there.”

But they did offer the public a series of creative presentations on Zoom and managed to have some in-person events before the pandemic began.

LABA East Bay will select just five fellows for 2021. Artists, writers, filmmakers and performers, with or without explicit Jewish education, are encouraged to apply. Applicants have been asked to provide a pandemic-friendly version of their proposal that allows for social distancing, as well as a post-pandemic version.

Applications are due Nov. 23 and can be found here. For more information, contact laba@jcceastbay.org.

Laura Pall
Laura Paull

Laura Paull is J.'s Culture Editor, and was a longtime J. freelance writer before that.