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New Stage, New Spirit at the 14th St. Y

Nearly a year after the completion of their $1.2 million renovation, the 14th Street Y is putting the southwest corner of 14th and First even more firmly on the East Village cultural map. The Jewish community center (open to “all backgrounds”) is nearing completion of their brand new theater and positioning themselves to provide a community space for “puppetry, filmmaking, experimental theater, aligning Jewish texts with the arts,” according to Reva Gaur who works for the Educational Alliance, a network of social and cultural centers of which the Y is a part. Ms. Gaur says that the “new theater will serve as the only professional theater in a community space in the East Village” when completed.

There are three key players that have made such a theater possible. Stephen Hazan Arnoff, Executive Director of the 14th Street Y, David Tirosh, LABA (the Y’s community arts program) artist-in-residence and Becky Skoff, who manages the theater and the arts program for the Y.

Securing funds for the arts in a time of economic uncertainty is no easy feat. Impressively, the center’s renovation funds have now exceeded the original $1.2 million to nearly $1.5 million with the help of New York City Council Members Rosie Mendez and Dan Garodnick. According to Mr. Arnoff, Councilman Garodnick grew up in the neighborhood and even “attended pre-school at the Y”.

Said Ms. Gaur, “We reached out to City Council members Dan Garodnick and Rosie Mendez to think about how we could obtain the first funds needed for the project. They embraced our vision and supported our application for funds from the City Council Capital Budget. This resulted in a $250,000 from the city which we combined with other funds to make our vision a reality for the community.”

Ms. Gaur explained that “laba” is Hebrew for “lava,” signifying an ambition to delve beneath the surface of the cultural landscape to find ancient wisdom. It’s also wordplay on the English “laboratory.” The next major arts program event is “What Kind of Love Is This: Bob Dylan and the Band” a combined gallery exhibition, symposium, and concert. The theater has already announced collaboration with AMAS Musical Theater, Red Fern Theater Company and Variations Theater Group.