Fitness Spotlight: Tim Haft, Personal Trainer

fitnessAs the 14th Street Y’s newest personal trainer, fitness expert Tim Haft brings decades of innovative fitness experience, as well as deep roots at the Y, to our personal training team.

Since 2005, Haft has devoted his time to improving the lives of our members through two innovative programs he created: Beastanetics, a high intensity interval training workout that utilizes a wide variety of bodyweight exercises, and Punk Rope, a fun, energetic workout that blends rope jumping and creative conditioning drills which has helped Y members shed the weight in just a few weeks.

“Seeing a member meet a short term goal, seeing them internalize that accomplishment, is a tremendous feeling,” says Haft.

With professional experience in career counseling and a deep knowledge of fitness, Haft feels that personal training and group instructing is the best way to utilize his strengths to help people reach their fitness goals. He’s been involved with fitness initiatives for over 20 years and is ready to motivate more Y members than ever before through his new role as a trainer here.

When asked what one piece of advice he would give someone who is ready to incorporate fitness into their lives, Haft responded, “be good to yourself, set realistic bars, and give yourself a little slack. Being gentle with yourself and surrounding yourself with positive encouragement will help you follow through with your goals.”

Come by for a workout with Tim!

Did you know? 14th Street Y membership includes one Welcome Workout with a personal trainer. Contact John Li to learn more about our personal training program:

Interested in Punk Rope, Beastanetics or other specialty fitness classes at the Y?  Stop by the service desk or visit to learn more!

For more information about Tim Haft and his credentials, visit

Y Cabaret

 Producers, Jake McIntyre & Larry Daniels reimagine the traditional definition of  “Cabaret” to showcase emerging choreographers and dancers in their new show, Y Cabaret.

Jake sat down with us at the Theater at the 14th Street Y to talk about the concept behind this show:

Why did you decide to reimagine a Cabaret with dance?

This question actually plays off the name we chose for the show, why cabaret (Y Cabaret)? Cabaret has been a model of performance audiences love for enjoying theatrical songs and acts, but serious dance has traditionally been left out of this. We decided why not have a dance cabaret for modern artistically sound work, where audiences can enjoy drinks and have an MC to help guide them through the night? A lot of dance is fun, sexy, intimate, and/or dark, but you don’t always get to feel that in a traditional theater setting. For audiences who aren’t big dance goers either, the cabaret model is the perfect fun way to get a taste of what the NYC dance scene can offer.

Choreographer, Ashley Menestrina

How is this different than people’s traditional expectation of a Cabaret?

The big difference is the artistic integrity of the work we are showing. The choreographers featured in this show each have their own specific artistic voice, and have been presented in major theaters and dance venues across the US. Our goal here isn’t just to entertain you as a traditional cabaret’s might be, but to also inspire and make you think. What’s not different, is there will be a killer MC to host the show, drinks and an amazing line up of performances.

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Choreographer, John Ole Olstad


What should the audience expect?

Everything and nothing. We want audiences who love dance, and those who have never really seen contemporary dance but are willing to give it a try. The choreographers featured are presenting a variety of different types of work, but all professional working choreographers with a strong and distinct artistic voice. You’ll be seeing some work that is just about cool or weird movement, others that are meant to be funny, and others which are theatrical or dark. We tried to make sure there was going to be something to tickle everyone’s fancy.


Preview the choreographers of Y Cabaret:

John Ole Olstad

Yin Yue

Adam Baruch

The Architecture of Proximity

Zullo/Raw Movement’s production The Architecture of Proximity is an immersive dance and performance experience exploring the relationship between the architecture of spaces and the physical, psychological and emotional effects of space on the body.

We asked Artistic Director of Zullo/Raw Movement, John Zullo a few questions about his new piece opening in the Theater at the 14th Street Y this Wednesday, October 28th.

Zullo Raw Movement

How would you describe this show to someone that has never experience immersive dance or theater? 

This performance is different from most other performances because there is no seating, therefore the audience is asked to stand during the duration of the performance with freedom to walk around the space. I liken the experience to being at a museum or gallery where you are moving through actively looking and engaging with the works. This allows for a more intimate experience of the work and to actually become part of the whole performance experience.

How did you first become involved with the Y?

I first heard about the Theater at the 14th Street Y when I was at the APAP conference last January.  I visited their booth, and  was able to talk to your staff to learn more about the space.  I like spaces that are unexpected.  My company has been performing mostly in the East Village, and I didn’t know that the Y had this venue.  I think this space allows for the piece to have a blank slate without the space defining the piece.  Instead, this piece is able to define the space.

What do you feel is an important theme of this piece?

In this case, it is playing with borders and boundaries that separate us and erasing them to find communality amongst individuals. It is creating an experience that forces people to deal with and negotiate the relationships that they have with each other and spaces.  Then, we are able to see how physical spaces can affect people physically, emotionally and psychologically.  In this piece, which I think more of as a movement based installation, is immersive through the convergence of movement, sound, architectural spaces, and light.  Through this, we are able to explore the possibility of it all working together– the movement is indicative of the spaces in our lives.

Is there anything else the audience should expect?

My goals for the audience are that they first, experience something that they have never experience before, and second, that they are transformed by the end of the installation.  I hope that the audience is able to find  a sense of openness, and are open to going on this journey with the performers.  The audience becomes part of the work as they are physically engaged in the piece.  Also, I encourage the audience to take photographs (no flash only) during the performance and tag @zullorawmovement on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!


The Architecture of Proximity will be playing at the Theater at the 14th Street Y

October 28th-Nov. 1st

Buy Tickets Here

Lekh Lekha (Take Yourself and Go): Taking the Next Step

Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein
Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein

By Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein, Executive Director

In my first year teaching elementary school, I was still naive enough to be surprised at a Manhattan five-year-old’s hopes for the new school year. “I want to do a good job in school so I can go to a good high school, and get into a good college, and get a good job, and make a lot of money.” Clearly, her experiences (and likely her grown-ups’) had already shaped her kindergarten view of life to indicate that making a lot of money was her goal, and that academic achievement was the path to getting there.

This week, a recent college graduate came to talk to me at the start of her career, looking to understand my work and also my path to becoming Executive Director of the 14th Street Y. Looking back at my own career path, I heard myself saying, “Doors and windows. I had an idea of what I wanted to affect in the world, and how I work best. I wasn’t sure exactly where I was going, but I followed an uncertain path through the doors open to me, and when a door closed, I looked for an open window.” I never imagined that the path would lead to being the director of a large community center in downtown Manhattan—but doing this work in our community, clearly I have found the right destination!

Some of us know from a young age where we hope to go in life, and some of us feel certain that we know how to get there. Many of us seek “success,” however we define it. Many of us also seek to live lives of meaning and purpose. Most of us find, at least by middle age, that life’s paths are nearly always circuitous, that the road can be very bumpy, and that the destination has changed along way.

Jewish tradition begins with the narrative of a journey, and the story of Abraham’s journey* towards an unknown land is a powerful allegory for our lives. This story is the basis of a Jewish sensibility we can call “Lekh Lekha,” which literally means “Take yourself and go.” These are the words that the young Abram (later called Abraham) is instructed as he begins his journey. Called to leave his childhood home, he is told that the destination will be revealed on the journey itself.

This sensibility, Lekh Lekha, suggests that we value life’s journey even more than its destination. If we walk on that journey with a clear sense of our values, an idea of what we want to affect in the world, and wisdom regarding how we want to work, then according to Jewish tradition, we are on the right path. Walking on that right path, with an orientation towards the direction we hope to go, the right destination will reveal itself along the way.

Too often, I feel that most of us have been conditioned like that five-year-old: success means having the most toys at the end of what quickly becomes a zero-sum game. What if more of us took the Lekh Lekha approach, and worked to move forward in life with more regard for the journey itself as a fulfillment of our values and aspirations? With this perspective, it may be easier to take that next step, and find that the right destination reveals itself along the way.

Shabbat shalom.

*You can read this story in Genesis 12:1 – 17:27, which you can find online here
You can find a summary and articles about this story here

ORIENTED: Thoughts from Director, Jake Witzenfeld

“I’m figuring out where I stand on a lot of central identity issues:

what being Jewish means to me,

what Israel means to me… “

A few thoughts by the Director of the ORIENTED, Jake Witzenfeld:

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How did the making of the movie come about?

Jake : I came across a YouTube video by a group called Qambuta. It was a stylish protest piece by a group of visibly Palestinian 20-somethings pointing the finger at the heteronormative values of their community in Israel. I was so intrigued by that identity complex: too gay for the Arab sub-community in Israel, too Palestinian for the Jewish majority… a minority inside a minority. I was able to reach out to Khader, the ring leader, through my roommate at the time. We went for drinks, he told me that there was “a Palestinian Woodstock” cultural revival kicking off in Israel, he captivated me with charisma and a nonchalant yet fierce desire for change. I asked him if I could begin shooting him and his world and he agreed. Two years and a little change later, we had a film!


What is a surprising fact that you discovered during the making of Oriented?

Jake: When I started making the film, I felt that I was really capturing a peaking of social activism – like I was following Rosa Parks to the back of the bus. But as the boys did not deliver a revolution, I became frustrated and began questioning that feeling and my own disappointment that they weren’t “giving me” a radical crescendo of change. That’s when I discovered that social change isn’t made the way it is recorded in text books. While successful social action influences macro-narratives, it is made up of micro-actions, attitudes and decisions: where are you partying, who are you dating, what are you posting… that’s what informed the film’s primarily personal approach and storytelling decision.


What world did you discover in Tel Aviv that you didn’t know about?

Jake: The underground gay Palestinian scene. I was aware of it but after Khader welcomed me to begin shooting, I met everyone and saw every spot and really got a 360. We transitioned into friendship very seamlessly and the filmmaking become a very personal journey for all of us.


How has it changed you?

Jake: I believe that I achieved a reflexivity with my subject that required me to mute my own cultural baggage and pre-conceptions. And you don’t just switch that off after final cut and go back to your old ways. I’m figuring out where I stand on a lot of central identity issues: what being Jewish means to me, what Israel means to me… I’ve never felt more unsure on any of those things but, simultaneously, I feel that this new web of interactions and conversations that I’ve entangled myself in has an underlying optimism to it. So let’s see.


What questions will you have afterwards?

Come see ORIENTED November 7th at 8pm at the Theater at the 14th Street Y

Stay after the screening for wine & conversation with the filmmakers and protagonist, Khader Abu Seif

For tickets to ORIENTED click here

USE  CODE: LGBTQ for $9 Tickets

Find out more about other screenings at The Other Israel Film Festival here



Meet LABA Fellows: Maxx and Rebecca

maxxbecks_headshot-150x150LABA Fellows, Rebecca Margolick and Maxx Berkowitz are a Brooklyn-based integrative and experimental performance collaborative.

What drew you to apply to LABA?

As a musician and media design technologist and a dancer/choreographer, we had been examining how to develop our artistic and creative growth by working together. After learning of the 14th Street Y’s program LABA and its focus on cross-disciplinary art forms in a Jewish context, we felt that it would be the perfect forum to present our ideas and the new work we had been thinking about.

Why do you want to study beauty?

Beauty is an undeniable force in influencing how we act, respond and make decisions. We’re interested in studying how the online world has influenced our perceptions, changed our sense of attraction and glorified our base instincts of voyeurism and false affection. We want to encourage people to think about how we are affected as a race in this world of hyper-realism and unrealistic expectations of beauty and accomplishment.


Check out Maxx & Rebecca’s past work:  

Maxx’s band- Twin Waves



Rebecca’s project-  It fit when I was a kid



This live performance, which layers dance and interactive media, explores how the ever increasing time we spend consumed by technology and the online world can profoundly shape our self image, emotional stability, and relationships with others.

The work revolves around two characters and the ensuing degradation of their physical and emotional communication to each other and themselves. The ever increasing deluge of information and distraction of the virtual world, so ingrained in their everyday lives, ultimately distances them from reality. The dichotomy of these characters’ responses to the ever-increasing flow of stimuli and mass-produced image of beauty (whether for the better or to their own detriment) is the momentum behind this creative exploration.

Read more about Maxx and Rebecca and their LABA project HERE

Valuing the Humanity in Each Person – B’tzelem Elohim

By Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein, Executive Director


Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein
Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein

This has been a hard week. While I am a New Yorker, I have lived more than four years of my life in the city of Jerusalem. I spent a good amount of time in the 90’s working as a part of the Israeli/Palestinian peace efforts. What is happening in Jerusalem is personal – two of the victims of this round of violence are in my network of friends and family. My family and friends, Jewish and Arab, are frightened and upset. Most are expressing themselves in heartfelt and also nuanced ways. Yet my Facebook feed, sadly, has also been polluted with dehumanizing, vitriolic posts. A really hard week.


But every morning, I walk through the front door of the 14th Street Y, pocket that little screened portal to a churning world, and enter a totally different reality. Damaris, our morning security guard, welcomes a child by name with a smile. A pair of friends in their late 70s walk into the yoga class where they first met, chatting about their shared weekend plans. A mom stops to pull her baby carrier out from her chest to show me the face of her two-week old child, one of our newest members.


This has been a good week, because I get to come to the Y every day. We are a diverse center and community made up of people of every background and experience. And, in the middle of a huge and anonymous city, we have created a warm community predicated on and dedicated to the idea that we value the humanity of every person. 


Valuing the humanity in each person is a core Jewish sensibility.* For those who follow the tradition of reading the Torah every year, we just started it again from the beginning last week. The origin story of the Jewish people teaches that every human being was created in the image of the same Divine being, in Hebrew, “B’tzelem Elohim.” From this story, we derive the sensibility that each person is unique and individual, and yet each of us is coming from and connected to the same source. This tradition holds us responsible for finding the divine spark in every other person. If we see that every person is fully unique, but also inherently exactly like us at their core, what follows is a human responsibility for creating justice and preserving dignity—not only for our individual selves, but for every person.


This is one of the many Jewish sensibilities that sit at the heart of the 14th Street Y. Our community is diverse. Among our many thousands of members, we hold many faiths (or none); we practice many religions (or none); we identify with many different ethnic groups; we speak many languages; every gender and sexual identity is represented amongst our members. Jewish sensibilities like B’tzelem Elohim (“value the humanity in each person”) guide us as individuals, as a community and as a center to reach our highest and deepest aspirations. So this hard week was also a good week – because while I am saddened as dehumanizing words and deeds pollute one part of my world, I am lucky to spend my days in this community, one that encourages us and helps us to value and support and appreciate each other. 


Over the coming weeks, on Fridays, I will be blogging about a different Jewish sensibility, and where and how it touches the Y community. I hope that if you read them, you will respond – either with a comment or by sending me an email at These sensibilities only serve us inasmuch as we grapple with them, respond to them, stretch them, and reshape them so that they best reflect us and our community. So, please, with dignity and respect for the humanity of every other commenter – add a comment to this blog, and add your voice to our community conversation!


Shabbat Shalom.


*The Lippman Kanfer Institute has published a set of Jewish Sensibilities here, based on an earlier article by Dr. Vanessa Ochs. Take a look!

Queen Duncan

imageWe sat down with Susan G. Bob, who will be playing Queen Duncan in Macbeth (of the Oppressed), which opens tonight at the Theater at the 14th Street Y to chat Shakespeare and identity.
What do you find most compelling about this production of Macbeth? 
It’s a gender bender production and it works. The male Macbeths played as male and the women taking on the Banquo and MacDuff roles is exciting and adds a rich texture and different dimension to the play.
What has the transition to working on Shakespeare from more contemporary work been like for you? 
For me, working on Shakespeare has been a huge challenge. My approach in working on contemporary work has been so different. I learn my lines in almost a monotone so that when I get with my fellow actors I can just play with them and the spontenaity gives the lines their own colors. Shakespeare is so musical and I find that my approach has had to be different.
The 14th Street Y has been home to a diversity of Jewish artists of all disciplines for many years. What is your relationship with your Jewish identity as an actor? 
I am Jewish and was brought up Jewish and no matter what role I take on in developing it stems from my background and takes off from there.
Anything else you want our readers to know? 
Working on this production has been a real learning experience and struggle for me. This cast, crew and director have been top notch.
Purchase tickets to Macbeth (of the Oppressed) HERE.
SUSAN G. BOB (Queen Duncan) won the 2011 Planet Connections Theater Festivity Award as Outstanding Actress in The Stranger to Kindness written by David Stallings. She also appeared as Sheepshead in David’s Dark Water. Susan originated the role of Dee in the Pulitzer Prize winning play No Place to be Somebody, presented at the Public Theater, Broadway, Off-Broadway and first national tour and was nominated for Best Performance in a leading role by the Los Angeles Drama critics. Her passion is working on new plays. Susan is a member of the New Jersey Repertory Company, performing in many main stage productions. She is a proud member of Manhattan Theater Works (MTWorks) and is excited and grateful for the opportunity to be working on Macbeth. Member of AEA, SAG/AFTRA.