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Benchmarks & Breakthroughs: Historical Highlights

Historical Highlights: 1874 - 1980

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The New York Times described 92Y's 1879 "Feast of Chanucka" as "a series of tableaux interspersed with Hebrew melodies, the whole followed by a ball." With about 1500 people in attendance at the historic Academy of Music, it was one of the earliest big-ticket Hanukkah celebrations in New York.

Emma Lazarus (author of the Statue of Liberty’s "Send us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…") taught English to immigrants at 92nd Street Y in the 1880s.

In 1913, Boy Scout Troop #635 at 92Y* became the first troop organized by a Jewish community center. Today, teens participate year-round in community service, and hundreds gather at 92Y once a year for a massive “Teensgiving”volunteer day.

The pioneers of modern dance—Martha Graham, Hanya Holm, Charles Weidman and Doris Humphrey—first presented their works at 92nd Street Y in the first-of-its-kind "Symposium on Modern Dance" in 1935.

Poet William Carlos Williams opened the first season of 92Y's Unterberg Poetry Center in 1939. In 1953, Dylan Thomas introduced his play for voices, "Under Milk Wood” there. One of the five busts created by sculptor David Slivka from Thomas’s death mask is housed at 92Y.

In 1945, the Young Men’s Hebrew Association (established in 1874) merged with the Young Women’s Hebrew Association (founded in 1902) to officially become the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association, or YM-YWHA.

Thelonious Monk and Art Farmer performed in 92nd Street Y’s first jazz concert on April 23, 1955, followed by Sarah Vaughan in 1959. The Jazz Theater Concert Series in 1962 featured John Coltrane, Betty Carter, Sonny Rollins, Bill Evans and a young clarinet player named Woody Allen.

Alvin Ailey’s dance company made its debut at 92Y in 1958, and in 1960, Ailey premiered his signature work "Revelations" here.

92Y’s Phase III Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, established in 1975, is the longest-running community-center based program of its kind: a supervised exercise program in which people learn to manage or improve their overall cardiovascular health.

92nd Street Y opened one of the country’s first Parenting Centers in 1978. But long before “parenting” was a household word—back in 1936—92Y offered a “School for Parents.”

*Note: Although 92Y began life as the Young Men’s Hebrew Association, the name “92nd Street Y” or “92Y” is used throughout this document for simplicity.