LABA Bay came about as a result of the LABA-shaped hole in her heart Elissa Strauss had after moving from New York to the Bay Area. Elissa, who from 2010-2017 co-directed LABA NY with Ronit Muszkabllit, wanted to bring LABA to the Bay Area for herself–she missed the community, conversation, text and art. Though she also saw that there was a need in the Bay Area for a home for culture-makers to come together and explore Jewishness, in that open-minded, freewheeling LABA-style setting. This was particularly true in the Bay Area, where Jews wrestle with their Jewish identities more than in other large urban areas like Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Chicago. LABA gives them a space and context to do this wrestling, and find new pathways of meaning and connection to the Jewish tradition and other Jewish and Jew-ish like-minded seekers.
LABA BAY began as LABA East Bay, a program of the JCC East Bay in Berkeley from 2019-2022, made possible with generous funding from Anne Germanacos’s Firehouse Fund: Cultivating Sparks. After three years of successful incubation, and the guidance of JCC EB program director Sarah Wolfman-Robichaud, LABA BAY expanded into a Bay Area-wide program in 2023.
Today, the program’s home is the Firehouse, in San Francisco. The Firehouse is a real place located in San Francisco. It’s also a place for the imagination, where artists, activists and educators are invited to be in conversation with one another and the world. In person, online and through their creations and activities, residents embody varieties of creative community.
Elissa will continue to work with LABA Bay’s funder and fertilizer, writer and artist Anne Germanacos, on maintaining LABA BAY as a place for finding possibilities and openings through an immersion in ancient thought and collective experiences.
Elissa Strauss * Artistic Director From 2012-2017, Elissa co-directed LABA in New York alongside LABA Global director Ronit Muszkatblit. In 2019 she helped launch LABA Bay, and in 2021 she became director of strategy and communications for the global LABA network. In addition to her work with LABA, Elissa is also a writer whose work explores gender, and relationships. Currently a columnist for CNN.com, her essays, op-eds, and reported pieces have appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Glamour, ELLE, the Forward, and elsewhere. Her first book “Who Cares,” will be published by Simon & Schuster in 2024. www.elissastrauss.com
Anne Germanacos * Advisor Anne is a writer, visual artist, activist and educator living in San Francisco. She contributes time and other resources to a wide variety of individuals and organizations through Firehouse Fund: Cultivating Sparks. She invites individuals to form creative communities through the Firehouse—a real place in Cole Valley as well as a concept, a style and a method! For more information on Anne’s books, teaching and philanthropy, see: www.mergemerge.com
Deena Aranoff * LABA BAY Teacher Deena Aranoff is the Faculty Director of the Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. She teaches rabbinic literature, medieval patterns of Jewish thought, and the broader question of continuity and change in Jewish history. Her recent publications engage with the subject of childcare, maternity, and the making of Jewish culture. gtu.edu/faculty/deena-aranoff
Sam Shonkoff * LABA BAY Teacher Sam Shonkoff is the Taube Family Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union. His scholarship focuses on themes of embodiment, revelation, and interpretation in modern Jewish spirituality. He is the author of a bunch of journal articles and book chapters, as well as co-editor (with Ariel Mayse) of Hasidism: Writings on Devotion, Community, and Life in the Modern World and editor of Martin Buber: His Intellectual and Scholarly Legacy. He is currently completing a book on Buber’s interpretations of Hasidic sources. Sam taught formerly at Oberlin College and holds a PhD from the University of Chicago Divinity School. gtu.edu/faculty/sam-sb-shonkoff
2023 Bay Area LABA FELLOWS
Winnipeg-born Mia Feuer is a sculptor, associate professor of Sculpture at California College of the Arts, and mother to six year old Galileo. Her ancestors are Ashkenazi Jews who settled on the frozen Canadian Prairies of Saskatchewan five generations ago. She tends goal for the Northern California Women’s Hockey League as part of her sculptural and spiritual practice.
Danielle Freiman is an interdisciplinary artist and designer based in San Francisco, CA. She received her B.F.A. from the Studio for Interrelated Media (SIM) at Massachusetts College of Art and Design with an emphasis in assemblage and installation. Her work is motivated by her personal experiences with mental health, chronic pain, queerness, and reproductive health, taking the form of zines (self-published books), printed materials, and workshops.
Jennifer H. Kaufman is an interdisciplinary artist based in San Francisco. She has exhibited work at White Columns in New York, d.e.n. Contemporary Art and Pharmaka Gallery in Los Angeles, the 808 Gallery at Boston University, and a number of Bay Area galleries. Rather than starting with an anticipated image, her work begins with a strong sense of sound and an internal cadence particular to the moment, an in-audible meeting that translates to motion and material: line as letter, tether to cord, tether to utter, cord to code.
Jo Kreiter is a San Francisco-based choreographer and site artist with a background in political science. She makes large scale public art via apparatus-based dance. She engages physical innovation and the political conflicts we live within. Her work democratizes public space.
Forest Reid is a Bay Area based sound designer, composer, and installation artist. His audio-visual work engages with Jewish mysticism, Yiddish culture, and repurposed archives. He has diverse experience with sound, including archival preservation, data sonification, and studio engineering. He has created installation work for the La Jolla Playhouse and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and has had his work featured in the Without Walls (WOW) festival in San Diego and Sukkahwood in New York.
Lila Rimalovski is a multimodal creator facilitating connection between the more-than-human (ecologies, landscapes, spirit) and the human (body, mind, heart) through sacred place-making. Farmer and herbalist by training, artist by dream, and ritualist by new moon, Lila’s work attempts to stitch the body back to the land to affirm a sense of wonder, belonging, and deservedness of existence in this complicated place and time. Born on the west coast and raised by Northeastern maples, Lila currently makes home in queer Jewish community on Ohlone land in Oakland, CA.
Lauren Schiller is an award-winning interviewer and the creator of numerous podcasts and radio shows. Her new book, “It’s a Good Day to Change the World. Inspiration and Advice for a Feminist Future” comes out Spring of ‘23 from Countryman Press.
PETER L. STEIN
Peter L. Stein is a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning documentary maker and arts producer, creating nonfiction stories for television, theater, museums and online media. He served eight years as the Executive Director of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, and for the last nine years as Senior Programmer for Frameline, the San Francisco International LGBTQ+ Film Festival. He maintains an active career as an onstage interviewer, presenter and performer.
Born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1955, Amy Trachtenberg’s work spans painting, sculpture and installation and includes design for theater, dance and public space. Her work has been shown and is held in the collections of The Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, The San Jose Museum of Art, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, The Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento and The Haitian Embassy in Paris. She is represented by Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco.
Laura Turbow has been a professional photographer for more than 25 years. She started as a newspaper photojournalist, working for publications including the Oakland Tribune and the Des Moines Register. She has run her own studio, Laura Turbow Photography, for two decades. Through an offshoot of her studio, a business called Still Life Stories, she helps people share their life stories through personal objects.
DANIELA MOLNAR * VISITING FELLOW
We are pleased to announce that we will have a regular guest fellow from Portland, Oregon who will join this year’s LABA BAY cohort.
Daniela Naomi Molnar is an artist, poet, and writer working with the mediums of language, image, paint, pigment, and place. She is also a wilderness guide, educator, and eternal student. She can be found in Portland, Oregon, exploring public wildlands, or at her website: