A Safe and Comfortable Place for Connection

Dear members and friends,

Heading into the fall, I find myself hungry for cleansing breaths after a heavy summer of mass shootings, deep mistrust between citizens and police, and vitriolic, ugly political discourse.

Frequently, media seeks to tell us the worst version of the story. And social media enables us to paint large groups of people that we think of as “other” with a broad and damning brush. Sometimes we share more positive images, like photos of the hugs between Black Lives Matter protesters and counter-protesters in Dallas. Yet, social scientists and media critics tell us that both conventional and social media are more likely to harden than change our opinions.

Instead, it is when we come together in community, telling and listening to one another’s stories, that we often find common ground with the people we see as “others”—and can find and reinforce a reality so much better than what we see on our screens.

I believe that the 14th Street Y is here to help bring us back to the basics of coming together in community—to connecting with and supporting our neighbors, in times of pain and times of joy.

In these unsettled times, we want the Y to be your safe and comfortable place for connection in our big and often anonymous city. And that doesn’t just mean our careful, expert-informed, and continually updated safety and security procedures. The 14th Street Y is a place where you can take a break from it all. A place where you can find others with similar beliefs, as well as significant differences where our common commitment to creating community encourages us to engage in conversation, exploration, and reflection.

This is why we have chosen the LABA theme of “OTHER” for our artists and our community to explore this year, looking at Jewish texts that challenge us to understand true difference while also seeing the innate humanity in every person. I hope that as you join an activity here, you will meet neighbors who are different from you—and that over coffee or on a treadmill, you will ask them what matters to them, and listen to their answers.

Our community thrives, and we can feel a sense of security, when we celebrate and learn from each other’s differences, and develop relationships that allow us to support each other in our shared humanity. We can start in Downtown Manhattan, right here on East 14th Street and 1st Ave.

L’shalom (To peace),

Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein
Executive Director
14th Street Y