What’s That Other Logo?

One of the questions we get a lot at the Y is “What is the Educational Alliance?”  The logo can be seen on our emails, posters, stationary and banners, and many times you’ll see it alongside the Y logo with your receipts (thank you very much for your purchase, by the way).  

Briefly, in 1992, what was then known as the Emmanuel Midtown Y merged with the Educational Alliance, and reopened as the 14thStreet Y.  The Educational Alliance is a Jewish agency with a rich history of service to the lower east side (click the link for more information.  It’s quite outstanding!).   The people that we serve are a little different in geography and means.

 There is no question though, that however different our constituents are, they are still New Yorkers driven by basic needs.  We all need friends, community, safe, warm places to raise our families and places for our children to thrive.  As New Yorkers, we all share the need for our streets to be safe and crime free, for our youth to have places to become the best they can be.  It can’t be stated too often…when we invest in our youth we invest in our future.   

 One of the Alliance’s signature innovative areas, its After School Programs, was hit particularly hard by massive government funding cuts this year.  These programs serve kids who come from challenging home environments, who may have an incarcerated parent, who are in need.  These kids live in housing projects and homeless shelters.  They are some of the poorest children on the Lower East Side.  But at The Educational Alliance’s After School Programs, these kids find a safe and supportive environment where they can spend each afternoon.  They get academic support and experiences in sports and the arts.  They build relationships with positive adult role models.  Without after school programs, these at-risk youth will lose these opportunities to make their lives better.  If government funding cuts force the closure of the Alliance’s programs, then these kids will be on the street after 3pm, at higher risk of dropping out of school, and at greater risk of committing or being the victims of crimes. They will not aspire to college and a better life for themselves and their families.

One After School program director tells the story of seeing a boy circling the school every day for hours. She spoke to him and learned that his sister was enrolled in a program at a nearby school and his parents worked, so they had told him to wait near the school until his sister was done at 6. Every day, circle after circle, he walked around the school, waiting, with nothing to do.  It’s this image that gets me the most.  I imagine so many kids like him with nothing to do, so many parents who will worry about their children who have no one to care for them and nowhere safe to go. 

Because we are a part of the Alliance, but more importantly because we are part of New York City and the world, I wanted to ask you, our Members, Friends and Patrons, for your help.  If you are able, please consider making a donation to the Educational Alliance by clicking here.  You can also join the campaign to get city funding for these programs restored:  Sign our petition to the mayor to save After School. 

 Post a reply and let me know your thoughts!  At the end of the day, we’re all in this together.

Happy Birthday Bob!

Our Executive Director, Stephen Hazan Arnoff wrote this blog for the Forward:  The Arty Semite, in honor of Bob Dylan’s Birthday. 

The 14th Street Y hosted  our “What Kind of Love is this” Dylan event in December of 2010, celebrating one of Rock and Roll’s  most powerful collaborations:  Bob Dylan and the Band.  The event featured a gallery exhibition, symposium,  and all-star concert. 

This blog was written for The Forward.com, The Arty Semite.  A link  to the article can be found here  .

Seventy does not mean old or young. As Bob Dylan says in Floater:

The old men ’round here, sometimes they get
On bad terms with the younger men
But old, young, age don’t carry weight
It doesn’t matter in the end

In the imagination of the Jewish sages of Late Antiquity, 70 means quality, not quantity. It means wisdom and variety.

There are the 70 descendants of Noah, the 70 names of Jerusalem, and the 70 wise men of Jerusalem. Legend speaks of a gathering of 70 translators of the Hebrew Bible into Greek for the first time — hence the Septuagint. Most important are the 70 faces of the Torah.

No matter how it turns, the sages taught, Torah finds a different expression of wisdom and variety. It looks different and illuminates different things. The word for “face” in Hebrew is panim, a singular entity described by a plural noun. In this sense, a face is always at least a duality if not more. (Bob Dylan is a Gemini, or “Twin,” too). With a slight change in its vocalization and a preposition added to the root, panim, the “outside,” becomes bifnim, meaning “inside.” Inside out, upside down, and every which way, Torah is a vessel of endlessly changing faces.

Dylan has played with the resonance of 70 for a long time now. The phrase “I was so much older then, I’m younger then that now” from “My Back Pages” is quotable for so many reasons, but it must be leaping across the web this birthday week. He was not even twenty-five years old when he wrote that. But in the case of 70 — Bob Dylan as a voice of wisdom and variety turning 70 years old on May 24, 2011 — it really fits. Happy Birthday, Bob.

The “Even my Blood is Tired” Workout

Do you know what I mean? Have you been there?  I’m so tired that it feels like my blood is having trouble moving, even though it knows it simply must. When I feel like this, the last thing I want to do is get in a work-out. I also know that if I can just do it, I might get the energy together for the rest of my day. So, my Saturday 25 minutes for me looks like this.
Cardio helps.  As do my music choices!
I drop my son off for his Seahorses class with the amazing aquatics staff, and drag my sorry, tired feet to the eliptical . I put “Walk Away” by Kelly Clarkson in my ears and start low, just trying to enjoy the kind of weightless walking that the eliptical can give you. I don’t raise the level or the grade of the hill. I just move my legs and arms for 5 minutes. I breathe.Once my body is used to the beat of the music and the movement of the exercise, I raise the level a few notches. I listen to “Canned Heat” by Jamiroqui and go a little faster.By the time I’ve finished out the song I’ve gone about 10 minutes. I feel ready to move a little more with a little more intensity. I head to the stairclimber. Oh, so 1990’s. I remember my college fitness center where I first discovered the Stairmaster. In honor of these years I listen to “Scream”, by Michael and Janet Jackson. I’m ready to push myself too, so I increase the level and press heavily into my heels. This not only targets the glutes, but also helps protect my knees, which is never a bad thing.  After Michael and Janet sing I continue my nostalgic 90’s Stairmaster jaunt with songs from “Barenaked Ladies”. Back in the ’90’s I saw them in concert before theywere filling big arenas, so that’s fun.

By the time I’m done, I have 5 minutes left,  and do some good old 1990’s  “Abs of Steel” exercises. Here are some of my favorite exercises from 90’s Fitness superstar Tamilee Web.

By the time I’m done, I have a minute to spare. I walk into the pool area just as my son is climbling out of the water and splashing his little 5 year old feet my way. He’s happy to see me and tell me all that he’s done, and I am happy to have created some patience and listening space needed for a great day with him.  Try this workout the next time you feel too tired to function.  My music choices are certainly optional! 

Camille Diamond is The Director of Community Engagement and Communications at the 14th Street Y 



Tales from a Festival Producer

The 14th StreetY’s LABA program hosts an art festival each year based on its theme.  In the past two years we’ve covered both “Pardes” (the orchard) and “The Body”.  Each year, the festival happens seemingly by magic.  Our latest blog is from Becky Skoff, LABA Manager, who sheds some light on how she’s making all this magic happen.   

EROS: A Festival by LABA is only one week away.  As the LABA Manager/14th Street Y Theatre Manager/Festival Producer, it’s a busy time.  I often get asked what exactly it is I am doing when I am seen running around the Y, often in circles, all day long.  The answer is complex.   I am managing 20 LABA artists and faculty, each preparing to present a visual, audio, or performance based piece for the Festival next week, as well as supervising an assistant, an intern, a technical coordinator, and a tech crew.  I spend a lot of my time carefully planning who will be doing what when, to ensure that everyone’s time is spent as efficiently as possible, and that all the individual efforts come to together to complete the big picture.  In addition to the day-to-day operations of the theater, LABA fellows, Gallery, and CSA, today I am overseeing the production of a Festival program, coordinating email blasts and other marketing efforts, and scheduling technical staff to build a set and lighting design for the theater. 

As if that weren’t enough, my creative thinking and problem solving skills are being pushed to the limit with all sorts of random tasks that go into Festival planning:

–          I found the answer to this week’s burning question– How can one of my artists build a large-scale installation with fireproof rope from the 25 foot ceilings in the 14th Street Y  Theatre? (Come Thursday night May 19 to find out, but it is possible!)

–          I purchased 400 square feet of Astroturf for a modern dance piece and 20 feet of aluminum for a round painting going up on a column.  Once the festival is over, where on earth am I going to store these things?

–          I went to BJ’s in Jersey city and bought an entire SUV full of cups, napkins, tablecloths, seltzers, water bottles, snacks and the ingredients for pomegranate cocktails.  Yum. 

–          Tonight, 4 visual artists will install their work on two different floors, while a dress rehearsal with a 30 person cast takes place in the theater.  Careful planning is necessary to ensure that all these groups have the resources they need without colliding with each other.  Resources include thumb tacks, ladders, two carpenters, hammers, levels, drills, paint and a screw gun.

–          How can we have people sit in a circle in the theater for a meditative music piece?  Answer– buy 30 pillow cushions at Ikea, and have my technical crew build furniture from recycled wood from old theater productions.

–          Where can we put a 20 foot by 3 foot mural in the Y?  TBD- still thinking on that one.   Suggestions are welcome!  (An idea of hanging the paintings from the basketball hoops has already been rejected.)

The greatest challenge of my job is solving these details while staying on budget, and also respecting the integrity and intention of each artists’ work. Will I succeed?  Come to the Festival to find out….


Where Does The Beiber Love Go? by Stephen Hazan Arnoff

You may have noticed recently that our Lobby gallery is currently showing the art of our talented preschool and after school students.  The show is called “All You Need is Love- and a little paint” and it’s curated by our talented LABA teaching artist, Eve Chwast.  Eve is a part of LABA, which is a Jewish house of study ( beit midrash), for culture makers held here at the Y.  This year, 20 artists, writers, dancers, musicians, actors, and directors, took part in a year-long exploration into this year’s theme, Love/EROS, and our central text, the “Song of Songs,” through art, writing, commentary, music, video, photography, and more.

The LABA Fellows also publish a Journal each month.  Check out this great post from this month’s journal by Executive Director Stephen Hazan Arnoff, as he compares Justin Bieber to another swoon-worthy musician, King David:

The emotional peak of Justin Beiber’s schlockumentary “Never Say Never” is a montage of clips from the now traditional concert ritual “One Less Lonely Girl” in which Bieber serenades of girl from the audience. Bruce had “Dancing in the Dark.” (Yes, that’s Courtney Cox of Friends.) Van Halen had a more sinister mode of surveying the audience, as roadies provided Polaroid pictures of women section by section for the gentlemen in the band. At Bieber’s show a girl is selected from the audience by the team and seated in a chair at center stage before 18,000 others just like her now just wanting to be her. Towards the end of the song Justin approaches with a bouquet of roses and a microphone and his bangs and his big white teeth and his sparkling eyes to sing “One Less Lonely Girl,” sometimes bouncing around and behind her with his dancers, sometimes framing her face with his hands the way young lovers do. The girls are stunned and enthralled, some all but levitating out of their seats. They also weep. They really weep – heavy sobs, gasping for air, smoothing rivulets of tears and mascara with the sides of their hands.

Don’t be grumpy about the real politick of the pop culture machine that brings us all this goodness. It’s not new. Sinatra and Elvis and the Beatles and even Shaun Cassidy and the Bay City Rollers drove girls to hysteria and made all kinds of money for all kinds of people too. Forget that it takes a village of marketers and branding specialists and product sponsors and a wasteland-vacuum of candy-sick-culture glassy-eyed over-the-top with nothing really happening to bring this moment to be. Forget all of that and focus on this: Kids who probably have never felt so special, so loved, so chosen for good, and indeed so not lonely than the moment of being chosen by Justin Beiber to sit on his stage in front of their peers at the epicenter of all things true in their world.

I have been privy to a little Beiberfever, mostly as a father.  I caught my own breath right along with these kids thinking how beautiful it was for them to be given a gift of mostly harmless and G-rated love lived vicariously through their peers. Why shouldn’t it be that every single one of these girls deserved to be a chosen one – the most beautiful girl in the world?

Of course, the scene flattens many values. Not a queer urge in the house. Cutesy hero boy rules squealing, besotted, helpless girls who just watch as he and his team control the moment. The money supporting the Beiber machine flows and flows from the girls and their parents. Thirty-five bucks for two tickets to the 3-D Fan’s Cut for my daughter and I. And, forgive me, the songs are mostly dreck.

But the power of the love in the “One Less Lonely Girl” clips is astounding. “I love him so much,” weeps one girl after walking off the stage. “I love him so much,” she repeats again and again.

I got my dose of Beiberfever just as we were closing our LABA study of Eros with the narrative cycle of King David. He starts off as a ruddy little punk, a cast-off in his way just like Beiber with his single mother unknown up north but possessing the miraculous power to slay Goliath and then rule the world. David slew hearts, too. He had eight wives plus lots of lovers, each in her way unfulfilled if not cast off by David. He was a political killer – literally – ruthlessly meeting his needs to get to the top, and often losing his way when he arrived there. Kingship in ancient Israel was just like the music business.

David was the seed of the Messiah as well. Messiah, lover, king, poet, and singer. A real rock star. He calmed the madness of Saul his mentor and rival by playing a lyre. He streaked naked through the city streets. He bore his narcissistic soul in dirges and praise to God, but so beautifully that we still read and chant them obsessively – at weddings and funerals, throughout the liturgy, and in moving of lips of observant women between stops on the subway or the bus. David’s White Album-Blue-Blonde on Blonde-Nevermind-The Joshua Tree-London Calling-Never Say Never was Psalms.

Beiberfever will pass. Does anyone even remember the Jonas Brothers let alone Menudo? But somewhere in his story – lots of places, in fact – there waits an answer to a question that even David has yet to share.

With so much love, so many antidotes for loneliness in these rock stars idols, and so much girl power rising in the moments of their adulation – where does all this love go?

I wonder how John Lennon could have said, pretty far down the line himself, that rock and roll could still change the world. I wonder how pop culture can generate so much passion and connection at a moment when kids are becoming adults, and then, in about as long as it takes for a one-hit-wonder to fade away, such spirits flatline when it comes time to bring this love to the world.

What Paul Simon says about the Davids, I wonder about those girls too:

Here’s to all the boys who came along
Carrying soft guitars in cardboard cases
All night long
Do you wonder where those boys have gone?
Do you wonder where those boys have gone?

Stephen Hazan-Arnoff is  Executive Director of the 14th Street Y