LABA Berlin was launched in 2021 in partnership with the Jewish Center Fraenkelufer Synagogue, an organization engaged in building a new Jewish cultural and art center in the Kreuzberg district. It is located in a soon to be reconstructed synagogue destroyed during the Second World War.
LABA BER will bring together a group of international creative personalities based in Berlin – Israeli, Russian, American, German – reflecting the rich diversity of Jewish life in modern Germany. A mix of visual artists, writers, dancers, musicians and actors – our group studies and discusses classical Jewish texts in the diverse, beating heart of Berlin. As a group, we explore what the future of Jewish art in Germany could look like, promoting diversity and contributing to making Jewish art and culture present again in everyday German cultural life.
Our hub was launched in 2021 as a part of the national theme year,“1700 years of Jewish Life in Germany”, during which programs around the country explored the relationships between Jews and Christians in Germany – both today and thoughout history. The artistic angle on this complex topic is intended to create an innovative approach to this 1700-year-old tension, and provide insights into the perspectives of contemporary Jewish artists living and working in Germany.
Dr. Dekel Peretz - Program Director
Dekel was born in Tel-Aviv, grew up in New York City and has been living in Berlin since 2002. As president of the Jüdisches Zentrum Synagoge Fraenkelufer, Dekel is spearheading efforts to rebuild the main sanctuary of the Fraenkelufer Synagogue as a community, cultural and arts center. Dekel is the founder of Eruv Hub – Germany’s first coworking space facilitating collaboration between Berlin’s most innovative Jewish initiatives. He is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Max-Weber-Institute of Sociology of Heidelberg University and the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity.
Bryan Fellbusch - Operations Director
Bryan is a New Yorker of German background who has been based in Berlin since 2009. He studied Economics at New York University, and European History at Humboldt University in Berlin and the University of Vienna. Bryan has worked in the historical tourism and event management sector in Berlin (and across Europe) for much of the last decade, and since late 2020 has been the Operations Director of the Jüdisches Zentrum Synagoge Fraenkelufer, overseeing a number of cultural and community focused programs.
Olaf Kühnemann - Creative Director
Olaf is a painter, winner of the Isracard and Tel Aviv Museum of Art Prize of 2008, and was included in the jurors' pick of the 2014 Thames & Hudson publishing's book, "100 Painters of Tomorrow." Since 2009, Olaf has been living with his family in Berlin, yet continues to work regularly as an artist in Berlin and Tel-Aviv. Olaf "is" Israeli and German, but not exactly either one of these stories. Questions about identity formation and constant transformation have been a motivating force and substance throughout his life, and his practice as an artist. Olaf earned his MFA from the Parsons School of Design in New York.
Rachel Libeskind - Creative Director
Rachel grew up in Berlin with a mix of cultures and nationalities in her home. She is an artist and a thinker, who's work focuses on shifting perspectives of history. Her practice is interdisciplinary, curatorial and often involves elements of performance and installation. After spending 15 years in New York, Rachel returned to work in Berlin. She holds a BA in Visual Studies from Harvard University. As one of our 2021 LABA Alumni, Rachel is our newest addition to our team.
Rabbi Jeremy Borovitz - Resident Scholar
Rabbi Jeremy Borovitz is the Director of Jewish Learning for Hillel Deutschland, which he founded together with his wife Rabbi Rebecca Blady. Jeremy grew up in New Jersey, spent several years in the Ukraine and has been living in Berlin since 2019. He has previously worked for the Peace Corps, the JDC, and Moishe House. He is also the founding president of the US Friends of Fraenkelufer association.
Yael Attia - Resident Scholar
Yael is a doctoral fellow at the Research Training Group Minor Cosmopolitanisms at the University of Potsdam. In her current research project, she seeks to trace the constitutive role of Jewish colonial experience in North Africa as formative to Modern French Jewish thought. For many years, Yael has worked as a guide at museums in Israel and Germany, among them, Yad Vashem, ANU museum of the Jewish people and Jewish Museum Berlin. She also co hosts the podcast of her doctoral program called: minor constellations.
Dr. Tal Hever-Chybowski - Resident Scholar
Tal is the director of the Paris Yiddish Center — Medem Library (Maison de la culture yiddish — Bibliothèque Medem), where he teaches Yiddish literature and Jewish history and culture. In 2016, he founded “Mikan Ve’eylakh: Journal for Diasporic Hebrew” (Berlin & Paris), of which he is editor-in-chief. In 2017, he founded "Yiddish in Berlin", a summer program for Yiddish language and literature in the Free University. He is currently directing “Jacob Jacobson,” an apocalyptic tragicomedy written in Yiddish in 1930 by Aaron Zeitlin.
2022 Berlin LABA FELLOWS
Ryan (Yebu-Tonu) is a 3D and new media artist from Toronto, Canada. Originally starting his career-path in brain research, Ryan graduated from the University of Guelph with a major in psychology and minor in neuroscience. In 2017 he withdrew from graduate school in neuroscience, as his academic interests turned more towards a growing desire to experiment with subjectivity through art. He has exhibited globally across digital art-focused exhibitions including Blue x80 (2018), Fu:bar (2019), Signal Flo (2019), and A Strange World (2022). His works are inspired by his interest in psychoanalysis and trauma, both as a tool in aesthetic expression, and as a history married to modern art. He currently resides in Berlin, Germany, where he facilitates an online Freud reading group, and is working on a visual mini-series inspired by Remedios Varo.
Roey Victoria Heifetz
Roey Victoria Heifetz lives and works in Berlin. Heifetz creates large-scale, textured drawings of people who identify as transgender, often layering portraits of acquaintances with fictional subjects, and exaggerating human features such as skin and muscles. She poses intimate questions in her practice about the body, gender, desire, insecurities, and regrets. Heifetz deals with the mental and physical transitions she is experienced, transitioning from a man’s body to a woman’s body.
Heifetz has already exhibited in numerous international groups and solo exhibitions around the world such as The Leslie Lohman Museum, New York, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, and Venice Biennale in 2019. in 2018 Heifetz was awarded the Ann and Ari Rosenblatt Award for visual artists and was nominated among the finalist for Marianne Werefkin Award for women artist in Germany.
Heifetz studied at the Bezalel Academy for Arts and Design in Jerusalem (BFA, MFA) and at the School of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, USA.
Wal is an interdisciplinary artist working across filmmaking, visual arts, literature and music. Wal earned a BA in Social Sciences at the University of São Paulo, with study abroad semesters in Paris and Cologne. In 2014, he enrolled at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne, on a DAAD scholarship, spending a semester at Art Center in Pasadena, California. In 2021, he went back to Brazil to record his first album, Foundation, singing songs about family taboos around HIV, survival, trauma and suicide. The project developed from a residency at Pivô, Sao Paulo, supported by Goethe-Institut and Kunststiftung NRW. Wal’s films and installations have been shown at Goethe Institut Beijing, Art Sonje Center Seoul, the Thessaloniki Biennale, Oberhausen Short Film Festival and Kassel DokFest. His current project is a satirical short-film exposing the rituals of corruption and reparation between a former Nazi armament manufacturer and its new clients, Israel among them.
Perel is an interdisciplinary artist whose work is centered on disability and queerness as they relate to care, consent, sexuality, and personal and historic trauma. Utilizing choreography to examine power exchange between the artist and audience, “Perel is a master at timing, of tension, relief, and intimacy while creating a space of learning and unlearning.” (Victoria DeJaco, Spike Magazine).
Their work includes performance, installation, criticism and curatorial projects. They often use collaboration as a platform for the exchange of disciplines, working methods and discourses with other choreographers, composers and visual artists. Perel asks, “How do we move across space and time with respect to our collected histories?” Their work has been shown for more than a decade at numerous galleries, theaters and performance spaces in the U.S. and abroad. Perel tours and teaches internationally, as a university lecturer and mentor to emerging disabled artists at organizations in New York and Berlin.
Ella Ponizovsky Bergelson
Ella is a multilingual visual artist who was born in Moscow, immigrated to Israel in 1991 and since 2016 lives and works in Berlin. Her own hybrid identity drives her to inspect cultural self-definition in individuals and in communities. In her work she explores and contemplates manifestations of migration and integration processes through visualisation of language. She studied in Bezalel Academy of Arts Jerusalem and in the School of Visual Arts NY City. In 2022 she represented the Yiddish culture in the frame of the Yiddishland Pavilion in the Venice art biennale. Ella believes that connecting a particular text to a place is a form of art. She creates interventions in public space and site-specific murals in public locations such as Klingspor Museum Offenbach am Main, the Jerusalem Biennale, Antique Toy Museum Mexico City, ZK/U Berlin and Kindl Brauerei Berlin. Paper installations were shown in Jaffa Museum, Museum of Islamic and Near Eastern Culture Be’er Sheva, Root Division gallery San Francisco, Literaturhaus Berlin, Mazeh 9 Gallery Tel Aviv and more. Work is included in the collection of Klingspor Museum Offenbach am Main. Reviews and interviews have been published in numerous media channels, including the Federal Agency for Civic Education, Germany, Der Tagesspiegel, the Jüdische Allgemeine, In Geveb, Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies and Gender Issues – Indiana University Press, Asymptote Journal and others.
Gal Ovadia Naor Magenn
Gal Ovadia Naor Magenn is a Berlin-based Sign-Language interpreter, performer, choreographer, theater maker, mind-body researcher, and founder of The progressive wave GbR. Gal was born in Israel in 1986. He graduated from the theater department of Thelma-Yellin High School of Arts in 2004. In 2010, Gal graduated from a four-year performance studies program at the School of Visual Theater in Jerusalem. In 2011, he received his diploma in Israeli-Sign-Language-Interpretation at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel. Later that year, Gal moved to Berlin. in 2014, he founded The progressive wave GbR with choreographer Matan Zamir. Their multidisciplinary and inclusive approach interfaces dance and visual art with sociopolitical content and consciousness studies. Since 2004, Gal has been studying Jewish secret mysticism, a.k.a Kabbalah (also means “Acceptance” in Hebrew) in a unifying prism, decoding the ancient wisdom into an up-to-date comprehensive practice to (re)claim religious ideas to the queer and secular communities.
EastBerlin-born violinist and producer Alex Stolze has generated a well-deserved reputation, both as composer and collaborator. Shifting seamlessly between stark modern classical works and fiercely intelligent electronica he manages to craft his own consistent sound throughout. Middle-Eastern scales, plaid on his 5-string violin, create a beguiling tonal landscape. Complex polyrhythms and unusual time signatures are turned into addictive, danceable beats, while he is recording his violin live on stage to create a multilayered string sound on his looper. He has toured widely across Europe. Past concerts include e.g. Elbphilharmonie (Hamburg), Cirque Electrique (Paris), Union Chapel (London), Volksbühne (Berlin) His emergence as a solo artist, collaborator and as initiator of music label collective Nonostar have opened up a range of new cooperations. The Nonostar label , on which artists like Anne Müller, Ben Osborn, Qrauer and Field Kit have released so far, is based at his remote creative workspace on the German-Polish border. The self renovated ruins recently developed into an international artist village that connects music, art, poetry, dance and circus.
Tomer Dotan-Dreyfus is an Israeli-born author, poet and translator. Hebrew is his native language, yet he has lived in Berlin for over a decade and writes mainly in German. He holds a BA and MA degrees from the Free University of Berlin, both in Comparative Literature and Philosophy, his MA-thesis presented a research into the singularities of the letter O and will soon be published in the coming summer as a book of essays. His recent translations from German to Hebrew include Walter Benjamin and Mascha Kaleko. in recent years he has published poetry in literary journals. Dotan-Dreyfus received a working stipend of the Berliner Senate for German-language writers in 2020 for his first novel Birobidzhan, a post-apocalyptic story set in a yiddish speaking town in Siberia, the novel will be published by Voland & Quist Verlag in 2023. He received a 2022 stipend of the German writers association (VG Wort) for his second novel. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Tomer is leading a seminar online, which researches the language used in apocalyptic literature.