LABA Jewish art “laboratory” moves to SF’s Firehouse – J.


LABA East Bay, the “laboratory” of Jewish culture that supports local artists through its annual fellowship program and hosts live showcases, is now called LABA BAY.

As part of an expansion, the local hub of the international LABA network changed its name and moved its headquarters from the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay to the Firehouse in San Francisco. Philanthropist and author Anne Germanacos, who has funded LABA East Bay since its founding in 2019, will take a more active role with the organization. Germanacos owns the Fire Station, a converted auto repair shop in the SF neighborhood of Cole Valley that serves as a Jewish community gathering space, among other uses. The building will host the inaugural LABA BAY events for Fellows, Alumni and Friends on November 13-14.

“JCC East Bay was a wonderful home for LABA, and it allowed us to test the model here and incubate it,” said LABA BAY Artistic Director Elissa Strauss. “I feel like we’ve brought a lot of life and culture to the [JCC] building across LABA, and then there was this feeling that it could meet a greater need across the bay.

Ava Sayaka Rosen’s tarot cards on display at the LABAlive event on November 7, 2021.

Strauss said she and Germanacos plan to hold more LABA events for the public at the fire station and will work to connect scholars and alumni to more Jewish institutions where they can share their artistic gifts. “I now have all these people that I want to share with the community at large,” she said. Alumni include singer Rabbi Jessica Kate Meyer, members of the musical ensemble San Francisco Yiddish Combo, actress and juggler Sara Felder, dancer Marika Brussel, poet Jake Marmer, and visual artists Ava Sakaya Rosen and Naomie Kremer. (Organizations interested in co-hosting LABA events can contact Strauss.)

Of Germanacos, Strauss added, “I feel very aligned with her intellectually, spiritually, and creatively, and I’m so happy to not only work alongside her, but also learn from her.”

In an interview, Germanacos told J. that she was drawn to LABA because it is an innovative, non-religious program that prioritizes artistic freedom. “It is to offer the possibilities inherent in Judaism and particularly through the Jewish text to people who have already found their way in the world – and I do not mean their way practically speaking, but spiritually speaking – through the imagination and through their art, whatever it is,” she said.

It’s a pretty special space, and people tend to feel special when they’re there.

The fire station, which Germanacos bought in 2016, is an ideal location for LABA fellows, she noted. “While the JCC they’ve shared with a lot of other people, it’s theirs while they’re there,” she said. “And it’s a pretty special space, and people tend to feel special while they’re in it.” (The fire station is a different building from the event space of the same name at the Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture.)

Germanacos, 64, launched her Germanacos Foundation in 2009 with money she inherited from her stepfather, wealth manager Claude Rosenberg, and her mother, Louise. Through the foundation, Germanacos funds a wide range of local and international Jewish organizations – including San Francisco-based Jewish LearningWorks and Berkeley-based Jewish Voice for Peace and Jewish Studio Project – as well as non-Jewish organizations. She is also a founder and member of The Kitchen, an independent Jewish congregation that meets regularly for Shabbat morning services at the fire station.

When asked why she felt called to support the arts, and more particularly LABA, she explained how she had gone back and forth at different times in her life between her identity as a Jew and her identity as a writer ( she has published several storybooks, poetry and pictures). “At this point, having lived in some sort of organized religious situation [at the Kitchen] for 10 years I’ve kind of been ready to go – it’s not exactly backwards, but forwards in the artistry, and bringing other people in as well, and so LABA is perfect,” he said. she stated.

The crowd at a cooking event at the fire station.
The crowd at a cooking event at the fire station in 2020.

Each year, LABA brings together a cohort of up to 10 local Jewish cultural creators – musicians, dancers, actors, visual artists, writers and others – to study excerpts from the Torah, Talmud and other Jewish texts on a specific theme. , then create new works. around the theme. Applications are currently being accepted for the 2022-2023 scholarship, which comes with a $1,000 stipend. The theme is “taboo” and the deadline to apply is November 18.

A traveling visual art exhibit created by LABA fellows titled “Comment!” is currently on view at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael until January 4. After that, he will be transferred to the Peninsula Jewish Community Center in Foster City.

Other LABA hubs are located in New York, Buenos Aires and Berlin, with planned pop-ups in Los Angeles and London. Each hub raises funds independently and receives financial support from parent organization Educational Alliance.


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