Be a LABA Fellow at any age!

We love this article that just posted on ejewishphilanthropy for so many reasons. We like the point that one doesn’t stop being vital, interesting or worthy of cultivation after 30. After all, most people find themselves past 30 at some point. But we also LOVE that the author points to our LABA fellowship as something for which artist at any age can apply and contribute richly to Jewish Culture. We agree!

Beyond Birthright: How Fortysomethings Can Cultivate Jewish Connections

by Erika Dreifus

My 44-year-old eyes fastened on the title of Elicia Brown’s column for The Jewish Week: “This Is Forty(something),” the headline announced. And there was much that resonated within the text, from the mention of a recent Forbes magazine reference to our peer group as “the smaller and often forgotten Generation X” to the column’s main argument: that “the largest-scale, most innovative Jewish initiatives ignore us, instead concentrating on a much younger generation.”

That latter point is one that has troubled me, too, and it’s not merely a matter of the fact that I missed out on Birthright Israel because I turned 30 the year that its first subsidized trips (for those between 18 and 26) took place. I’ve written elsewhere of my frustration with the youth-centered focus of Israel advocacy programs. You can ask journalist Samuel G. Freedman how many times I’ve inquired regarding the possibility that his Writers’ Seminar on the Jewish People might one day welcome middle-aged applicants. As an avid consumer of and advocate for Jewish literature, I’ve even grumbled about being excluded from the Jewish Book Council’s “Raid the Shelves” events, when the JBC opens its doors to “offer all of its leftover books” to “any and all young Jews in their 20s and 30s” who are nimble enough to grab them. (It seems that the JBC has heard me: the latest “Raid the Shelves” announcement, for an October 2013 event, shows a commendable new openness to us older folks!)

Like Brown, I wish that Jewish organizations and funders as a group recognized the contributions that we middle-aged folks can offer. I wish that they made it easier (not to mention more affordable) for us to cultivate our Jewish knowledge, identities, and commitments. After all, many of us have been educated well beyond college. We’ve held jobs; we’ve had years to hone our work ethics and sharpen essential skills in communication and teamwork. We’ve matured. We Gen Xers are, in fact, primed and ready to benefit from opportunities that may, at times, be wasted on the young.

But, like others whom Brown quotes in her piece, I’m not simply sitting around waiting for a groundswell of activity in this direction. Instead, I work diligently to find the opportunities that are, in fact, open to Gen Xers (and sometimes, even older folks) on my own.

Last summer, for instance, I enrolled in a free “Hebrew Reading Crash Course” to re-familiarize myself with the aleph-bet. My weekly class at the JCC Manhattan was an evening one, convenient for those of us with 9-5 responsibilities and supervisors. Similar classes are held throughout North America, thanks to the National Jewish Outreach Program.

More recently, I discovered the multi-faceted offerings of the Tikvah Fund, including free courses like the one I enrolled in this past winter on Zionist Thought and Statesmanship. Again, I opted for an evening class, but most of the semester-long courses – like Dara Horn’s “When Bad Things Happen to Good People: Divine Justice and Creativity in Jewish Literature” – were held during the day, which might work better for some. Recently, applications were invited for the Tikvah Advanced Institutes, which are described as aiming “to provide accomplished professionals from around the globe the opportunity to study big ideas, great texts, and current issues with some of the world’s leading thinkers and practitioners.” These seminars, slated for the fall, are better than free: they offer stipends.

For the writers and artists among us who find inspiration in Jewish texts and traditions, there are additional opportunities. LABA: House of Study, which describes itself as “a secular beit midrash and culture laboratory at the 14th Street Y in New York City,” annually selects 10 fellows “to partake in a yearlong study of classical Jewish texts centered around a theme”; the program is now taking applications for 2013-14, when the theme will be “Mother”. Earlier this spring, nearly 70 lucky individuals were chosen to participate in the Asylum International Jewish Artist Retreat (applications were permitted from artists and writers up to the ripe age of 45). And the newly-launched Posen Society of Fellows welcomes applications from doctoral students and emerging fiction writers, with no age limits indicated.

– See more at:

MOTHERFellows Application for the 2013-2014 LABA House of



Fellows Application for the 2013-2014 LABA House of Study


“Mother and Child” by Jules Pascin


LABA is a non-religious Jewish house of study and culture laboratory at the 14th Street Y. Every year LABA selects a group of around 10 fellows — a mix of artists, writers, dancers, musicians, actors and others — to join us for a yearlong study of classical Jewish texts centered around a theme, and then interpret these texts in their work which is featured in LABAlive events and the quarterly online journal. 


A central focus of LABA is to present Judaism’s rich literary and intellectual tradition in a free and creative setting, so that these texts and ideas may serve as inspiration for the fellows’ thought and art. The work inspired by the study aims to push the boundaries of what Jewish art can be and what Jewish texts can teach.

LABA’s home of the 14th Street Y in New York City’s East Village  gives our fellows an opportunity to engage with the Y community, our neighborhood and the New York theater and art world through installations, gallery shows, workshops, performances and more.

The theme of LABA 2013-2014 is MOTHER. We’ve all got opinions about mothers. She is someone we mythologize, demonize, adore and abhor. This year we will engage in a deep exploration of the mother figure, examining the enormous symbolic gravity she holds in classical Jewish texts. We will witness the mother as heroine, the mother as villain, the mother as creator of life and the mother as destroyer. We will look at all these women in the Jewish canon, and the mark they left on our collective cultural memory.

So come talk about mother with us. Unlike your therapist, we’ll pay you!


We are looking for culture-makers 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 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 12 spread out from September 2013- June 2014.  The sessions will take place Monday evenings. Fellows will be required to make one contribution to our online journal and to participate in one of our LABAlive events which will take place throughout the year.

This year we are asking applicants to come to LABA with either a work-in-progress or project idea connected to the theme of Mother. Our goal is for this project to be informed and inspired by the text study.

Fellows will receive a $2100 stipend for their participation in LABA as well as project support up to $5000.  We will also provide fiscal sponsorship and fundraising support.

Fellows will have access to rehearsal space and workspaces in the Y throughout the year.


Please answer these questions and send them back in the body of an email to by July 31, 2013. Please put the word “application,” your name and your field in the subject line. (Fields include: writing, theater, visual arts, music, etc.)

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 examples, up to 10 pages total.)

2. Please explain your project idea or work-in-progress that you feel could benefit from a year of investigating Mother, approximately 200-400 words.

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

4. What interests you about studying Mother?

5. What is your experience with studying Jewish texts?

6. What do you hope to gain from LABA?

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

8. Optional: Tell us a little something about your mother.