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The Story of 92Y

On March 22, 1874, in the home of Dr. Simeon Newton Leo, a group of German Jewish professionals and businessmen met to explore ways in which they could serve the social and spiritual needs of the American Jewish community, and the YMHA was founded.

Since then, the Y zig-zagged all over the New York City, finding a home first on West 21st Street, then 42nd Street, gradually moving up town to 58th Street, running into difficulties in 1895 and relocating to smaller premises on 59th Street, being rescued by Jacob H. Schiff and moving to 65th Street in 1899, establishing a building on 92nd & Lex in 1900, and finally opening our current building in 1930.

After the Great Depression hit, 92nd Street Y entered an extraordinary period of creativity, with trailblazing dance performances, world premiere concerts and literary performances, unlimited learning opportunities, social initiatives and more. 92Y’s Jewelry Center (today one of the largest and most esteemed programs of its kind in the nation) was founded as part of Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration, offering a single class in metalworking. After World War II, the Y reorganized as the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association and blossomed again, with waiting lists for many of its programs.

92Y has transformed itself through the years. Today, the challenges we face are unprecedented. But we have absolutely no doubt that, with your support, the 92nd Street Y will weather this crisis so that it will continue to be a source of connection and uplift, a place to learn and grow, a welcoming Jewish home for all.

Now, our goal is to ensure that our beloved institution can be sustained in the near future. So the greatest gift we could receive would be your support during this time of crisis.

Please give today.

  • 1874

    In a bold effort to serve the social and spiritual needs of the American Jewish community, a group of pioneering German Jewish professionals and businessmen found the Young Men’s Hebrew Association on March 22. Dr. Simeon Newton Leo hosts the first meeting at his home. Rented quarters at 112 West 21st Street include parlors, a reading room and a gymnasium.

  • September 10, 1874

    On September 10, 1874, the Young Men’s Hebrew Association is incorporated and officially recognized as an institution by New York City — a historic moment for the pluralistic city’s Jewish citizens. Oscar Straus, one of 14 founding directors, becomes President Theodore Roosevelt’s secretary of commerce and labor.

  • 1878

    Growing finances enable 92Y to expand to a larger home at 110 West 42nd Street — which adds a bowling alley, a club and classrooms to original features like reading rooms and a gymnasium. The first public events are held, as members purchase tickets to dance and to celebrate the festival of Chanukah. 92Y is fast becoming a vital hub for the community.

  • 1879

    92Y holds a celebration called Grand Revival of the National Holiday of Chanucka at the New York Academy of Music, a 4,000-seat opera house. It includes six costumed tableaux from the Maccabean Revolt featuring hundreds of men and women, an orchestra and a choir of children from the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, and a grand ball. The event receives national coverage in major newspapers and helps bring Chanukah into the American consciousness.

  • 1883

    Emma Lazarus, whose poem “The New Colossus” is later engraved inside the Statue of Liberty (“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses …”), teaches English to young immigrants at 92Y’s newly established downtown branch. Later to become the Educational Alliance, this branch serves members living on the Lower East Side and aids the new Russian Jewish immigrant population.

  • 1886

    92Y moves from 42nd Street to 721 Lexington Avenue at 58th Street.

  • 1895

    Financial difficulties take a toll, prompting a relocation to 111 East 59th Street. But new board leadership is able to expand community support, spearheaded by a major gift from banker, businessman and philanthropist Jacob H. Schiff, the foremost Jewish leader of the time.

  • 1899

    Two years after donating a brownstone at 65th Street and Lexington Avenue, Jacob H. Schiff sees growing YMHA success and invests $150,000 to construct a new home for 92Y at 92nd Street and Lexington Avenue. In gratitude, the board presents Schiff with a silver loving cup — a memento rediscovered by 92Y in 2016.

  • 1900

    The new 92Y opens at 92nd Street and Lexington Avenue — which continues to serve as the institution’s home today.

  • 1903

    92Y’s youth outreach expands with the YMHA Summer Vacation Camp for young men and boys in Sayville, Long Island — a tradition that continues today with 92Y’s popular Camps programs.

  • 1911

    Felix M. Warburg, Jacob Schiff’s son-in-law, donates Heinsheimer Memorial Annex on 92nd Street. 92Y’s first-ever residence is created, including a dormitory for young men and activity rooms.

  • 1913

    Boy Scout Troop 635 at 92Y becomes the first troop created by a Jewish community center in America, representing the blend of Jewish and American values at the core of 92Y’s mission.

  • 1919

    The School of Music is organized.

  • 1927

    Board president Judge Joseph M. Proskauer — a philanthropist and political activist — launches a $1.5 million building fund campaign. Henry Kaufmann of Pittsburgh pledges a gift of $200,000 to build the Theresa L. Kaufmann Auditorium as a memorial to his wife.

  • 1929

    The cornerstone for a new building at 92nd Street and Lexington Avenue is laid by Mrs. Jacob H. Schiff, whose late husband’s vision for 92Y profoundly influenced its development.

  • 1930

    The new building at 92nd Street and Lexington Avenue opens — making 92Y the largest and best-equipped Jewish community center in the US. Facilities include a dormitory for 235 men; two gymnasiums; a 25-yard pool; the wood-paneled, 917-seat Theresa L. Kaufmann Auditorium; a kosher cafeteria; a billiard room; and many other amenities.

    The 92Y Art Center is established.

  • 1934

    92Y dramatically expands its cultural arts and educational programs under the leadership of education director William Kolodney. Serving for 35 years, he initiates many of the programs that become cornerstones of 92Y’s service to the Jewish community and the general public.

  • 1935

    Dance comes to 92Y as the Dance Center is formed. Modern dance pioneers like Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Hanya Holm and Charles Weidman are among the teachers and performers supported and nurtured by 92Y.

    92Y’s Jewelry Center is founded as part of the Works Progress Administration, offering a single class in metalworking. It grows to become the largest and one of the most esteemed programs of its kind in the nation.

  • 1938

    The 92Y Nursery School is established. Today it remains one of New York’s most highly regarded nursery programs.

    Classical guitar master Andrés Segovia performs at 92Y — where he will return for another concert in 1980. The Budapest String Quartet plays the first of 28 seasons here, establishing chamber music as an integral part of concert programming that continues to this day.

    Hall of Fame baseball player Hank Greenberg returns to 92Y as a member of its gym — after hitting 58 home runs for the Detroit Tigers.

  • 1939

    Legendary poet William Carlos Williams opens the first season at the new 92Y Poetry Center. The center offers writing and literature classes as well as readings and lectures by distinguished poets and literary figures. Those who have appeared here include Margaret Atwood, W. H. Auden, James Baldwin, Saul Bellow, Joseph Brodsky, Anthony Burgess, Umberto Eco, T. S. Eliot, Ralph Ellison, John Fowles, Robert Frost, Seamus Heaney, Langston Hughes, Eugène Ionesco, David Mamet, Arthur Miller, Marianne Moore, Octavio Paz, Harold Pinter, Philip Roth, Susan Sontag, Wallace Stevens, Sir Tom Stoppard, Dylan Thomas, John Updike and Tennessee Williams.

  • 1945

    YMHA is reorganized as Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association: YM-YWHA. The newly united organization thrives in the postwar era, with waiting lists for many programs.

  • 1947

    92Y offers its first pottery classes — leading to the development of its esteemed Ceramics Center.

  • 1950

    Yorkville Neighborhood Club, the predecessor of 92Y’s highly regarded 60-and-up program —now the Himan Brown Senior Program — is established to serve older adults.

  • 1953

    Iconic Welsh poet Dylan Thomas presents the US debut of his famed play for voices, Under Milk Wood, on 92Y’s Kaufmann Concert Hall stage, reading the First Voice himself.

  • 1955

    Camp Yomi (“My Day”) is founded, with activities at 92Y and at the Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds in Rockland County.

    Arthur Miller reads from his classic play Death of a Salesman and W. H. Auden teaches a class, “Form and Style in Poetry,” at the Poetry Center.

  • 1959

    The Noar After-School Program is instituted, and it continues to provide children with a range of after-school activities and enrichment today.

  • 1960

    Trailblazing choreographer Alvin Ailey premieres Revelations at 92Y. The dance, a stirring depiction of the faith and path to freedom of African-Americans, would go on to become Ailey’s signature work.

  • 1962

    The Clara de Hirsch Home for Working Girls, founded in 1897, merges with 92Y, leading to the construction of a new residential building to accommodate 200 women. The 92Y Residence remains in operation today, with rooms for 334 students, interns and young professionals.

  • 1964

    Truman Capote debuts his landmark work of creative nonfiction, In Cold Blood, on 92Y’s Kaufmann Concert Hall stage. The historic scene is later reenacted in the Academy Award-winning film Capote (2005).

  • 1966

    Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda gives his first US reading at 92Y, and Leonard Cohen reads his poetry and performs “The Stranger Song.”

  • 1968

    92Y’s Henry Kaufmann Building (known today as the South Wing) opens. Incorporating the new Clara de Hirsch Residence, 92Y nearly doubles its dormitory capacity and provides expanded space for the School of Music, the Art Center and administrative offices.

  • 1970

    “An Evening with ‘Yip’ Harburg” inaugurates the Lyrics & Lyricists™ concert series. Created under the artistic direction of conductor Maurice Levine, the series thrives to this day — including 2018’s “The Bobby Darin Story,” featuring Broadway star Jonathan Groff.

    Kurt Vonnegut debuts his novel Breakfast of Champions at the Poetry Center.

  • 1973

    The Chamber Music at 92Y and Distinguished Artists concert series are created. They continue to attract some of the classical music world’s greatest performers to the 92Y stage each year.

  • 1974

    Nineteen-year-old cellist Yo-Yo Ma gives his first 92Y recital.

  • 1979

    92Y opens the first-ever Parenting Center in the country, providing expert advice and a nurturing home for parents and their young children.

  • 1982

    Columbia University film professor Annette Insdorf moderates her first film talk at 92Y. Insdorf will become the moderator of 92Y’s signature film series, Reel Pieces, which features preview screenings and conversations with Hollywood’s leading actors and directors. Guests have included Meryl Streep, Francis Ford Coppola, Sidney Poitier, Al Pacino, Daniel Day-Lewis, Helen Mirren, Emma Stone, Martin Scorsese, Javier Bardem, Natalie Portman, Forest Whitaker and many more.

  • 1985

    The Jazz in July concert series begins under the artistic direction of the great jazz pianist Dick Hyman. It continues today under the leadership of Grammy Award-winning pianist Bill Charlap.

  • 1987

    Celebrated writer Maya Angelou discusses literature with the first group of NYC public school students in the Poetry Center Schools Project — now known as the Christopher Lightfoot Walker Schools Project. Authors who have participated over the years include Salman Rushdie, Patti Smith, Jamaica Kincaid, Tony Kushner, Adrienne Rich, Zadie Smith, David Mitchell, Nadine Gordimer, Sandra Cisneros, Grace Paley, Mario Vargas Llosa, August Wilson, Arthur Miller, Lucille Clifton, E. L. Doctorow and many others.

  • 1990

    Our flagship educational outreach series, the Musical Introduction Series, begins bringing the arts to New York City’s public schoolchildren. Recent performers include the Tokyo String Quartet, jazz bassist Christian McBride and singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant.

  • 1991

    The Tisch Center for the Arts is named with a generous gift from the Tisch family.

  • 1992

    The Bronfman Center for Jewish Life is named with a special gift from the Samuel Bronfman Foundation. The Unterberg Poetry Center, part of the Tisch Center for the Arts, is endowed by the Greenwood family in honor of Bella Unterberg, founder of the YWHA.

  • 1994

    The Harkness Dance Center is named with generous support from the Harkness Foundation of Dance. 92Y’s Harkness Dance Festival, an annual showcase of contemporary and cutting-edge dance, is launched and continues today.

  • 1995

    The 92Y Dance Education Laboratory (DEL) is founded by Jody Gottfried Arnhold. DEL provides training and professional development for dance educators of all levels, ages, genres and educational environments and serves as a practical alternative to traditional university programs.

  • 1996

    The Charles Simon Center for Adult Life & Learning is endowed by a bequest from Charles Simon, and the May Center for Health, Fitness & Sport is endowed by Leni and Peter May. A brand-new Cardio Court opens in the May Center and becomes an immediate hit with members.

  • 1998

    The Lillian & Sol Goldman Family Center for Youth & Family is named with an endowment from the Goldman family.

    John and Jackie Rosenthal and Phil and Cheryl Milstein unite to fund the Milstein-Rosenthal Center for Media and Technology, a home for 92Y’s constantly evolving technology-based initiatives. The center opens in 2001.

  • 1999

    92Y constructs a “village” of three facilities at the Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds in Rockland County to house fine arts and nature programs.

    92Y celebrates its 125th anniversary.

  • 2001

    Sir Paul McCartney reads from his book of poetry, Blackbird Singing.

  • 2003

    The Recanati-Kaplan Program for Excellence in the Arts is founded — with the support of Daphne Recanati Kaplan and Thomas S. Kaplan — and begins offering merit scholarships for exceptional talent in music, dance and art to children ages 7 to 17.

  • 2005

    92Y’s Art Center celebrates 75 years of excellence in community art education with a major exhibition and a catalog showcasing the history of the center.

  • 2009

    92Y celebrates its rich history of support for contemporary dance with 75 Years of 92Y Dance: Past Future Now, which includes a historical exhibition, an anniversary gala performance and more than 200 dancers and choreographers performing at 92Y during the anniversary season.

  • 2010

    The first annual Social Good Summit, a forum dedicated to new technology and the social good, is presented at 92Y and webcast live, allowing people around the world to participate.

  • 2011

    92Y’s 60-and-up program is renamed the Himan Brown Senior Program in memory of Himan Brown, a pioneer in radio whose bequest will help thousands of people as they age.

  • 2012

    The first annual #GivingTuesday is created by 92Y and implemented with the United Nations Foundation as a national day of giving on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. More than 2,500 nonprofit and business partners in all 50 states participate. Results show a marked increase in online giving. #GivingTuesday continues to expand its reach and impact today.

  • 2013

    92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center celebrates its 75th anniversary with special programming, including a historical exhibition, Love the Words, and “75 at 75,” an online collection of commissioned essays to accompany archival recordings, all available at Participating writers include W. S. Merwin, Cynthia Ozick, Tom Stoppard and many more.

    Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman attends the grand opening of 92Y’s custom-built Gymnastics Studio in the Sky. It features state-of-the-art equipment and skylights that provide an open, airy atmosphere for gymnasts of all ages and skill levels. New programs for adults and individuals with special needs are also developed.

    92Y creates the Center for Innovation and Social Impact to reimagine the role of the community center in today’s fast-changing, digitally connected world. The center focuses on multiplatform programs and partnerships, including #GivingTuesday, the Ben Franklin Circles and more.

  • 2014

    92Y’s Center for Education Outreach celebrates 25 years of bringing the arts and literature to more than 16,000 students and teachers in 56 New York City public schools annually. Programs now include the flagship Musical Introduction Series and the Christopher Lightfoot Walker Schools Project, plus after-school scholarships, 3D Digital Design and more.

    92Y’s Poetry Center celebrates Dylan Thomas’ centennial with a dramatic reading of his play Under Milk Wood — first presented at 92Y with Thomas in 1953 — starring Michael Sheen, Kate Burton and others. The reading is broadcast live on BBC Wales.

  • 2016

    92Y launches the Women inPower Fellowship, a dynamic new cross-sector program designed to help women advance to the next stage of their careers and make a social impact.

    The first Extraordinary Women Awards is held to shine a spotlight on the remarkable women in our community who personify 92Y’s values of learning, self-improvement and repairing the world. Amanda Nguyen, Barbara Schwartz and Leila Foulon are the recipients of the inaugural awards.

    92Y commissions “A New Year,” an original song of hope and peace to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and distributes it worldwide through a digital video. Sung by communities from New York to Krakow to Sao Paulo to Sydney, the song quickly goes viral, amassing more than 5.7 million views and 131,000 shares in more than 150 countries.

  • 2017

    92Y launches Teen Producers, the first arts fellowship of its kind. This career-exploration and mentorship program offers New York City public high school juniors the opportunity to learn about arts-related careers, grants them access to leaders from arts organizations, creates networking opportunities and gives them hands-on experience in arts production.

    The 92Y artists’ residency initiative expands with the launch of the first Jewelry Center residency — the first of its kind in New York City. Daring 29-year-old Swedish jeweler Göran Kling is the first recipient.

    In collaboration with the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA), 92Y launches the first annual #GlobalDayofClay, an initiative that leverages the power of social media and technology to create the first worldwide conversation about ceramics in all its forms — engaging ceramicists, artists, academics and everyday pottery lovers. Over a million people participate, from Canada, the UK, India, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Guatemala and elsewhere.

    92Y’s Grandparents Center opens and begins offering classes, workshops and activities. Developed and run by the team that has led the Parenting Center for nearly 40 years, it furthers 92Y’s commitment to supporting New York City families through every age and stage.

    #GivingTuesday marks its fifth anniversary, making its greatest impact ever: 2.4 million charitable gifts from more than 150 countries worldwide, totaling over $300 million raised online.

    92Y announces an ambitious capital campaign to transform its physical space and update its facilities for the 21st century.

  • 2018

    92Y creates the first Jewish Innovation Fellowship, providing New York City rabbinical students with a free, semester-long curriculum focused on design thinking, innovation and leadership.

    92Y opens a brand-new, 5,000-square-foot School of Music designed by specialist architects to include new practice rooms, a new recording studio, a state-of-the-art technology lab, a lecture hall with smart board and livestreaming capabilities, and more vital features.