About LABA

Program Overview

LABA East Bay 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. Its home is the JCC East Bay.

The creative output from LABA East Bay pushes the boundaries of what Jewish art can be and what Jewish texts can teach. LABA means “lava” in Hebrew, and reflects the way in which art and culture can bring experiences from deep below the surface, both in the past and in our psyches, into day-to-day life. By presenting Judaism’s rich literary and intellectual tradition in a free and creative setting, these stories and ideas spark new thought and art.

Every year, LABA selects a group of 8-10 artist fellows, a mix of visual artists, writers, dancers, musicians, actors, and more, to study classic Jewish texts in an open-minded and accessible setting. Neither theological nor academic, LABA welcomes fellows with a wide variety of approaches to Jewish life and tradition.  

LABA East Bay is one of five LABAs around the world, with others located in New York, Buenos Aires, Berlin, and Tel Aviv. Learn more about LABA Global here.

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The yearly LABA curriculum is centered around a theme, and previous ones include Beauty, Paradise, Eat, Mother, and Time. The theme is explored through writings from the Torah, Talmud, Mishnah, and Zohar alongside select contemporary texts.

The theme for 2022 is BROKEN. We are broken vessels, and we live, according to Jewish mysticism, in a broken vessel. The chaos is never-ending, as is our longing to put the pieces back together. Our brokenness, as individuals, as a people, and as a society, is what pushes us to think, feel, and change. All the things that make life interesting, that make it worth living, despite the suffering and struggle, come from brokenness. Except, of course, for those times when the brokenness is just too much and the only possible outcome is tragedy.

Art sits at the intersection of the tension between the longing for wholeness and the inevitability of brokenness, as do Jewish texts. They push us to imagine a more unified, perhaps utopian existence, while at the same time wrestling with the fault lines upon which we all exist. In 2022, LABA East Bay will dive into the pain and pleasures of brokenness through our study of ancient Jewish texts, as we contemplate the ways in which brokenness is foundational to the Jewish tradition, and the ways in which brokenness plays out in our individual psychology and the world around us.

LABA fellows create new work in response to the texts they learn in the house of study. This work, some finished, some in-process, will be read, exhibited, and performed as part of the LABAlive series. Events will take place at the JCC East Bay as well as other cultural institutions around the East Bay. Each LABA event will combine culture with text teachings, (ideally along with a nosh and some wine), and will be open to the whole community. 

We’ve got a lot in store for you from opportunities to meet the artists to Family Shabbats with LABA to LABAlive. Check back often to find out about our next event!

In Your Words

"Art indeed! LABA has something to teach the world about infusing time with meaning and joy."

Anne Germanacos of the Firehouse Fund: Cultivating Sparks

"Big appreciation for last night's (LABA study) session - it was fun and life-giving! Very soulful recharge.  Honestly, I can't imagine teaching/leading - or doing a whole lot - now, especially in the evening, so I really appreciate you and your commitment, and the session."

Jake Marmer, 2020 LABA East Bay fellow

"Being part of a community of like-minded artists made all the difference during a year of huge uncertainty.  LABA East Bay supported and encouraged my art-making, and fed my soul.  The community I found there was the balm and sustenance of 2020."

Marika Brussel, 2020 LABA East Bay fellow

"As artists, we often work alone, and sometimes forget that our work is stronger when we work together. LABA offered me the space to share work, and collaborate with new colleagues, in ways I wouldn't have been able to do outside of school, or from the inside of a theater collective. To have this experience with Jewish artists/colleagues is even more rare and spectacular since we can bring our full Jewish and artistic selves to the LABA community. Often times I have to explain my Jewish self to my artistic colleagues, and my artistic self to my Jewish colleagues. Within the LABA collective, and as part of our public presentations, the Jewish and the creative can live together."

Dan Schifrin, 2020 LABA East Bay fellow

"The LABA fellowship has given me the great gift of the company of extraordinary teachers and fellow artists: in wrestling with, investigating, and playing with texts and teachings, we have been reinventing, in community, what it means to conceive of ourselves and our work in conversation with those traditions. As a result of this transformative process, my own fiction now combines a variety of new elements, including Torah and Jewish folklore, into stories set in present times and taking on social justice and environmental issues."

Sarah Stone, 2020 LABA East Bay fellow

"Since the pandemic started, I feel like I've spent a lot of my time caring for others — my family, my students, and my colleagues. Something I appreciate about LABA is that I have felt so cared for. The staff and the other fellows in my cohort put so much consideration into every experience. It has been a bright spot during this time."

Rachel Berger, 2020 LABA East Bay fellow


Have questions about LABA East Bay?

Email: laba@jcceastbay.org


LABA East Bay is generously supported by the Firehouse Fund: Cultivating Sparks