15 Jul

LABA is a beit midrash, or Jewish house of study, for culture makers held at the 14th St. Y in New York City. Through the LABA fellows program, around 10 artists, writers, dancers, musicians, actors, and directors, partake in a yearlong study of classical Jewish texts in a non-denominational, non-religious setting, and incorporate these ancient ideas into their contemporary work. The theme next year will be Blueprint and we will examine the complex bonds between physical, mental, and mystical places.

For next year we are looking for artists and culture-makers of all stripes, from actors and painters, to tight-rope walkers and chefs, to join us in our study.

The application can be found below and also on our website at:

LABA is a Jewish house of study for culture-makers located at the 14th Street Y in New York City. Every year a group of around 10 fellows — a mix of artists, writers, dancers, musicians, actors, and others — partake in a yearlong study of classical Jewish texts centered around a theme, and then interpret these texts in their work which is featured in the annual year-end festival and monthly online journal. The theme of LABA 2011-2012 is Blueprint. A central focus of LABA is to present Judaism’s rich literary and intellectual traditions in a non-denominational, non-religious setting, so that these writings may serve as inspiration for the fellows’ art.

Next year we will examine the complex bonds between physical, mental and mystical spaces. We will look at how architecture and geography are used to create order out of chaos, separate the sacred and profane, define boundaries and create a sense of meaning and purpose for individuals and communities. Our core text will be the famous biblical story of the Tower of Babel. From there we will move to some of the better, as well as the lesser, known realms of the Bible, the Mishna, the Talmud and the Midrash and study stories, fantasies, and debates that relate to the junction of space, place, structure and meaning. We will visit ancient cities, mythological spaces, ruins, caves and long-withered gardens. We will supplement this study with the work of sociologists and philosophers like Mircea Eliade, Gaston Bachelard, and Yi-Fu Tuan who have written about the poetics and social and psychological functions of spaces and places. The members of our study group – artist, performers, architects, writers and culture-makers – will bring to the table their own insights and sensibilities and enrich the texture of our study-experience.

We are looking for culture-makers with a Jewish background from any creative field. Previous fellows have included dancers, actors, visual artists, theater directors, musicians and writers, though we are not limited to these categories. We encourage everyone, from puppeteers and chefs, to architects and tight-rope walkers, to apply.

No previous knowledge of Jewish texts is required for fellows, though familiarity with these texts will not lessen one’s chances of becoming a fellow either. What is required is a desire to study these texts in an intellectually serious but non-religious setting. Through our study we hope to engage with the stories of the Bible and classical rabbinic texts as if they were new. We will discuss Abraham the father, rather than the patriarch, David the lover, rather than the king. We also fold in contemporary literature, as well as music and art, to help us better see both the timeless and radical elements of these sacred texts.

Fellows are required to take part in study sessions, of which there will be eleven spread out from September 2011- May 2012. They will be required to make one contribution to our journal, and participate in the year-end festival. More information on both the journal and the festival can be found on

The LABA team will work with each fellow to discuss this work, and encourages creativity and ingenuity on behalf of the fellow. In short, we look forward to hearing project ideas from the fellows and do all we can to help implement their projects. Fellows will receive an $1800 stipend for this work. There is also additional financial support available for festival specific projects as well as occasional opportunities to lead workshops at the 14th Street Y, for which fellows will be compensated.

Please answer these questions and send them back in the body of an email to [email protected] by August 10, 2011.

1. Please provide us with a short bio and/or artist’s statement, approximately 300-400 words. This is your chance to give us a sense of your work, your accomplishments, and your ambitions. Please attach or link to 2-3 examples of your work. (For writers, 1-2 samples, up to 10 pages.)

2. What interests you about LABA and studying Jewish texts?

3. What is your experience with studying Jewish texts?

4. What do you hope to gain from LABA?

5. How did you hear about LABA? (If applicable, please let us know if you were recommended by a previous fellow.)

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