Downtown Jewish Life at the 14th Street Y

Organization: 14th Street Y, New York, NY

Grant Year: 2015

Project Director: Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein

Type of Grant: Signature

Grant Amount: $150,000.00 (3 years)


To strengthen the downtown Jewish community through inclusive, Open Tent public programming that will inspire in its audience a renewed interest in Jewish experiences, a firmer sense of who they are as Jews, and a creative context upon which to build a meaningful Jewish life.

This program began as an Ignition grant in 2014. The 14th Street Y partnered with local synagogues, social justice organizations, and other local Jewish organizations, allowing it to offer interesting, multifaceted events and to attract a diverse audience. This initiative was launched with a community-wide Passover event in downtown Manhattan. The 14th Street Y hosted workshops about issues relating to Jewish values and offered resources for young parents and others regarding how to celebrate Passover and exciting ideas for engaging children and family. The Passover event served as the kick-off for the The 14th Street Y’s digital campaign, which was run during the 49 days of counting the Omer, between Passover and Shavuot. During the Passover event, there was a photo booth where people made six-second videos discussing how they relate to the social justice themes they encountered at the event. Throughout the Omer, constituents were asked to post photos and videos around this theme. This user generated content not only built up excitement for the 14th Street Y’s projects, but also allowed for the collection of data and shed light on the type of issues the constituents cared about. This culminated on Shavuot with a symposium on these issues and a community-wide discussion.

The second educational engagement event was a Sukkah Design contest in partnership with downtown synagogues and organizations. They announced the winner that Fall and made the winning design available for download on the 14th Street Y’s website, disseminating the design across all of its social media platforms. The 14th Street Y recruited families to help build the final designs.

Other events have included Honeymoon Israel Cocktail Parties for couples applying for trips to Israel, Sukkot celebrations, Hanukkah candle lighting, and a speaking series addressing the political,
social, and cultural state of affairs in Israel.