Why the 92nd Street Y Hired a Rabbi

After shifting to online programming during the pandemic and seeing its audience explode, with viewers in 200 countries as well as all 50 states, the 92nd Street Y wanted to make clear where it was. In May it changed its name to the 92nd Street Y, New York, or simply 92NY on its redesigned logo.

Now, as an unsettling stream of antisemitism surges nationally, it wants to “more publicly assert our Jewish identity,” as Seth Pinsky, its chief executive, put it. He said the 92nd Street Y was creating a new position, senior director of Jewish life, and hiring Rabbi David Ingber, above, the leader of Romemu, a synagogue on the Upper West Side that describes itself as “a progressive, fully egalitarian Jewish community of people from all walks of life — young and old, orthodox and secular, multiethnic and intermarried, conservative and liberal, committed and disillusioned, of any and all genders.”

There is no question that this is a tense time. Last month on social media, the entertainer Kanye West, who now goes by Ye, posted antisemitic comments, and the Nets’ All-Star guard Kyrie Irving posted a link to an antisemitic film. (Adidas cut ties with West, and Nike — which had been scheduled to introduce the next version of Irving’s signature sneakers today — suspended its relationship with him. The Nets also suspended him.)

The Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a warning to synagogues in New Jersey about a security threat. The agency said later that they had found the source, whom the special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s Newark office described as a man with “radical extremist views and ideology as well as an extreme amount of hate against the Jewish community.”

Pinsky said that bringing in Rabbi Ingber was “an evolutionary step” for the 92nd Street Y, which is known as a cultural institution and is renovating one of its performance spaces and building a new dance center.

“This is not a fundamental change in who we are,” he said, “but a recalibration of how we manifest who we are and how troubling are the times.” He added that the 92nd Street Y was “well advantaged to create a bridge” to those Jews “who are entirely disconnected from traditional Jewish institutions.”

At the same time the 92nd Street Y is raising money for a $15 million fund named for Rabbi Peter Rubinstein, the director of Jewish community at the 92nd Street Y and its Bronfman Center for Jewish Life from 2014 until earlier this year. Rabbi Ingber will take on those responsibilities, with Rabbi Rubinstein as the emeritus director.


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