European Association for Jewish Culture 




2008 Grant recipients' biographical notes 

Performing arts: new works for the stage

Michèle Albo (France) was born in Marrakech in 1959. She studied at the Conservatoire des Arts Dramatiques, then began to write and produce her own shows in France and abroad. Raymond Yana studied at the Conservatoire des Arts Dramatiques, then at the Institut National de l’Audiovisuel. In 1979 he co-founded the company Cie de la Courte Echelle. He has directed several theatrical plays and has worked as a television director. Vis au long de la vie is a theatrical show with marionettes and live music.  It is an adaptation of a novel by Violette Jacquet, which has the Holocaust as its central theme.


Yael Flexer (London, UK) is a British/Israeli choreographer who studied dance and choreography at the London Contemporary Dance School, and is currently Artistic Director of Bedlam Dance Company. She has also taught and performed extensively. Her project, Doing, Done and Undone, is a dance triptych considering the ways in which we are inevitably tied to one another.  Blending fast-paced intricate choreography and an informal sense of humour, Doing, Done & Undone questions what we do to others, what is done to us and how this makes us come undone. Echoing events in Israel and Lebanon the work locates the thinking about these events in the body and in the sound score. Rather than attempting answers, the work continually asks questions of its dancers and its audience.


Graeme Messer (London, UK) is a playwright and director who studied dramatic art at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and completed a directors’ course at the British Theatre Association. He has directed plays for a number of theatres in London and Ireland and is the author of Love, Lust & Sawdust, More than Kisses, and award-winning The House of Doors. Laughing in the Dark is a play exploring the life of a Jewish ventriloquist, who was imprisoned in a concentration camp and survived the Holocaust. A ventriloquist himself, Messer performed on Television in South Africa at the age of fourteen  and has continued performing to this day. It is his knowledge of this dying art that he will draw on when telling this story.


Oren Shafir (Bagsværd, Denmark) is an Israeli-born author, poet and playwright living in Denmark. He studied journalism and English at universities in the US and Denmark. His collection of short stories, Small Truths and Other Lies, was published in Copenhagen in 2002 and his most recent play, Family Planning: A musical comedy about weapons of mass destruction, was performed at Copenhagen University in 2007. His play, Romeo and Juliet: The Sequel, is a musical comedy set in a contemporary city somewhere in Europe, with a theme touching on a subject that is all too relevant today: the lack of dialogue between Jews and Muslims. Roger, a middle-aged Jew and Jaida, a young Muslim woman fall in love, do a few song and dance numbers, and poke gentle fun at everything.


Michelene Wandor (London, UK) is a widely published writer and playwright as well as an accomplished musician who performs Renaissance and Baroque music with her early music group The Siena Ensemble. With degrees from Cambridge and Essex universities and from Trinity College, London, she has taught at the Guildhall School of Drama, London, London Metropolitan University and abroad. She has received many awards and nominations particularly for her radio dramatisations. Her new work, Mandating Loyalties, is to form part of this year’s programmes commemorating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel. The play will draw on the friendship between two very different men, Alter Levine and Khalil al-Sakakini in the early years of the 20th century in Palestine. The two shared a love of American culture and a passionate belief in a society where there was co-operation between Jews, Muslims and Christians.



Performing arts: music composition


Ygal Banai (Germany) studied at the Hochschule für Musik in Munich. He has composed music for some 15 films, winning first prize at the 2003 International Film Festival in Haifa. In 2000, he composed Neilah, which was performed by the Jerusalem Chamber Orchestra and broadcast by Israel Radio. Since then he has also been artistic director of the Safed festival in Israel. His works have been performed in Italy, Germany and Austria. Nessiah is a musical journey which narrates the diverse realities of the European Disapora – taking his audience to the shtetls and towns of Eastern Europe. It will be performed and recorded at the Würzburg Academy.


Frédérique Berni became the agent for Talila and Ben Zimet in 2000, having worked as a freelance press agent since 1996. In 2002, she embarked on a project devoted to Jewish and Eastern music, leading to the organization of an international festival of new Jewish music, Klezmopolitan in 2005. At present she is working on creating a web-based platform for Jewish and Eastern music, Klezmopolitan. The new album will reflect the vitality of contemporary Jewish music while creating a bridge between the past and the future.


Marc Kibrick Bernstein (Varde, Denmark) is Associate Professor and Chair of the Rhythmic Music Department at the Danish Academy of Music and Music Communication. He is currently teaching saxophone, composition, arranging, improvisation and music history. He is a prolific musician who has published a number of CDs and has performed extensively. Jewish PhonicPhoneme is a visually oriented music and sound performance which will place the audience in the centre of a “multi-sensory theatre”. It is characterized by an intimate interplay between acoustic and electric instruments, klezmer, classical chamber music and Jewish jazz, song and the spoken word, as well as live video and sound design.


Mickaël Charry (Toulouse, France) was inspired by the radical Jewish culture of John Zorn (and by his label Tzadik). Charry covers a whole range of contemporary styles (electronic, rock, expermimental, gypsy jazz). In 2004 he met the leader of Klezmer Madness, David Krakauer, at a master class of the new-klezmer, who encouraged Charry to further explore this re-presentation of the traditional Jewish repertoire from Eastern Europe. His CD will be released by the JUMU label. Anakronic Electro Orchestra was founded in 2007. A group of young people from Toulouse, the band builds on klezmer roots, communicating an imaginative recreation of the past. It has a reggae feel alongside the klezmer clarinet. The CD, Themes Yiddish will be produced by JUMU, a label which links the past to the present by grafting electro onto klezmer, combining rap with yiddish clarinet and mixing the Jewish-Arab tradition with hip-hop.


Amira Garine (Firenze, Italy) was born in Graz (Austria) and studied piano, violin and composition at the Accademia Musicale Campana and Bar-Ilan University, Israel. In 2003, her composition Fiori d’Arancio was awarded the first prize at the Young Composers’ International Competition in Naples. Subsequently, she devoted herself to the study of folk music. In 2005 she won the City of Salerno Prize for her work on Cilento folk songs. She currently works at the folk music department of the Accademia Musicale Campana and teaches harmony and composition at the Paestum Academy of music. Since 2006 she has also been the artistic director of the Paestum Folk Music Festival. Her composition, Belcanto Ebraico, is a work for soloists and an instrumental ensemble inspired by the Jewish experience from chazanut to the folk chants of different traditions from Georgia, Bukhara, Italy, the Balkans and Morocco.


Mark Glanville (London, UK) studied Classics and Philosophy at Oxford University before winning a scholarship to study singing at the Royal Northern College of Music. Awards there included the Ricordi Prize for Opera, the Countess of Munster Award and the Elsie Sykes Fellowship. After a year at the National Opera Studio in London he made his debut with Opera North. For the last 15 years he has been cantor on High Holy Days for Westminster Synagogue in Knightsbridge and given regular performances of songs from the Yiddish and Hebrew repertoire. A Yiddishe Winterreise is a programme of songs composed by Alexander Knapp. It aims to reflect the emotional and physical journey undertaken by the hero of Schubert's original cycle Die Winterreise. The specific context is the Holocaust, the performer a badkhen (wedding singer) who reflects on the destruction of his home and family, and the consolation of his religion as he escapes through a winter landscape.


Shtetl Superstars (Berlin, London) is a new project of Jewish underground music led by two young musicians, Yuriy Gurzhy (Russendisko, Berlin) and Lemez Lovas (Oi Va Voi, London). The album will include titles of the most interesting Jewish groups. Yuriy Gurzhy (Trikont, Germany) was born in Ukraine and currently lives in Berlin. He is a musician, DJ, producer and a presenter of a radio programme. With Wladimir Kaminer, he launched the popular “Russendisko” and recorded four CDs.  Lemez Lovas is a Londoner of Ukrainian extraction. He is a musician (OiVaVoi) and DJ (Radio Gagarin), a radio journalist and composer of film and theatre music. He is currently working on a book about the Franco-Algerian pianist Maurice El Medioni.


Sylvie Sivann (Capharnaoum, France) won a first prize for singing at the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem. Returning to Brussels, she founded Leporello, a musical theatre company, and toured Belgium with Hertz and Schmerz.  In Paris, together with Gerard Grobman, she started Cie Capharnaum. In 1997 she released her first album, Playsound. She has performed with her sextet at festivals of World and Sacred Music. The recording of Du côté de chez Sivann will include Jewish songs in Yiddish, Hebrew and Judeo-Spanish, showcasing little-known material. The collection aims to re-locate this music in a contemporary context with arrangements by Christian Mesmin and Pierre Wekstein.


Visual arts: exhibitions of new work


Katy Beinart (Oxford, UK) studied architecture and development practices at UCL and Oxford Brookes University. Her artistic practice combines public art, architecture, and education to examine themes of history, identity and place. Much of her work is research based and site-specific, and evolves through a participatory process. She uses architectural representations including map-making and drawing, photography and digital/analogue film. Her proposed work, The Gift: Origination will explore how one’s own identity and sense of place is created, in comparison with (and informed by) previous generations. Her goal is to create a 'map', or series of drawings, which explore the journeys made by her great-grandparents and grandparents, combining cartographies and classifications with narratives of desire and loss of identity.


Michael Bensman was born in Moscow in 1957, where he studied architecture. He moved to Germany and worked on a variety of projects in Berlin, taking part in many exhibitions and presentations at international art festivals. He is particularly interested in graphic arts and art books. His new project, Personal record n° 3, about the Fisherman and a Fish, is a study of the textual and symbolic significance of the fish in the Torah and in the New Testament.


Ronald George Golz’s 1998 installation Just stop! converted a bus-stop shelter on the Kurfürstenstraße in Berlin-Schöneberg into a permanent reminder of the site of Eichmann's 'Jewish Department'. In 2004, he was a finalist of the Jewish Artist of the Year Award (JAYA) at the Ben Uri Gallery in London with The silent caretaker. His other works include Jewish and Gentile Basketball - An installation (1999); Synagoga and Synagogue (and their Protectors) - a Photomontage (2000).  His new project with the group Meshulash is entitled Erwählung (God’s Choice) and will use a variety of media: painting, photography, collages, sculptures and installation.


Celestial Jerusalem, terrestrial Jerusalem, visions of an eternal esthetics is a group exhibition presenting the work of four Russian artists. Based in New York, Paris and Jerusalem, together they develop their aesthetic vision around a single source of inspiration. Figurative painting for Vera Gutnika and Vladimir Kara, photography for Gueorgui Pinkhassov, sculpture and installation for Julia Nitsberg, each artist bases its work on the history of Jerusalem and its spiritual dimension. Vera Gutnika is a pupil of the famous Soviet artist Vladimir Shtranick. In 1988, she received a grant from the Ministry for Education and Culture of Israel, and went to Paris to study painting. She has exhibited her work in Israel and abroad. In her paintings, the boundaries between the object, the image and the background disappear and the painting becomes alive with the rhythm of lines and explosive colours. Vladimir Kara has exhibited at the French Institute in Florence, the Cocteau Museum and Museo d' Arte Contemporanea (Pecci).  His works have been shown at the Inter Art Gallery (New York), the Gallery Modevormgeving (The Hague) and the Gallery Aderes Ufer (Berlin). He has created stage sets and costumes for several European theatres and also wrote and directed the film Genia Polyakov - ballet master, choreographer (2004).  Julia Nitsberg has taken part in individual and collective shows in New York, Harbor Cultural Center and Newhouse. She graduated from the Parsons School of Design of New York.  She produced sculptures and multi-media installations and mural drawings  exploring a wide range of political and socio-cultural subjects. Geyorgui Pinkhassov studied photography at the School of Cinema in Moscow. In 1978, he joined the Union of the Graphic Arts. The same year, the film director Andrei Tarkovski involved him in the filming of Stalker. In 1988 Pinkhassov joined the Magnum agency in Paris and covered events for the international press (Géo, Libération, Stern and the NewYork Times Magazine). In his photography, he uses lighting and angles, which bring his work close to abstraction.


Gergely Laszlo (Budapest, Hungary) is a photographer, artist, curator and president of the Lumen Foundation in Hungary which works to popularize and support the work of art photographers and video artists. He has exhibited in prestigious galleries in Budapest as well as internationally (Russia, UK, Slovenia, Croatia, Germany). In his photo project entitled Kibbutz Yad Hanna he plans to portray the history of a small and dwindling kibbutz in Israel founded by members of Hashomer Hatzair, many of whom were Hungarian. This project hopes to prevent the hitherto unexamined history of Yad Hanna from falling into oblivion.




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