Building bridges at YM&YWHA

Building Bridges — Interfaith Family Project Exhibition

Using a grant from philanthropic outfit United Jewish Appeal, the Y designed an art project that celebrates diversity in the community and welcomes interfaith families.

“The Y really has an open-door policy — even though we’re a Jewish agency, everybody from the community is welcome here,” explained Deborah Katznelson, Chief Social Services Officer at the Y. “We want to make people feel comfortable with us.”

To bring the project to life, the Y tapped Ben-Zion, who was raised in Israel and moved to Northern Manhattan in 2008.

Starting in October 2014, Ben-Zion and Y social worker Chevi Marks met with local interfaith families affiliated with the Y. Marks conducted formal interviews, while Ben-Zion snapped candid shots of families in their home.

A central exhibition of interfaith family photographs and the accompanying interviews will take place at the Y from June 7 to 14, and is open to the general public. On June 7, a kickoff event will feature a world music concert, and comments by Ben-Zion and Marks.

“Most of the families spoke of the feeling of openness and community that they have here,” said Marks. “Families like the Jewish content of our programs, but said they appreciate that everyone can be part of it, even if you’re non-Jewish.”All of the posters now displayed at local stores, pharmacies and restaurants feature a short description about the family depicted in the photograph, along with a quote that the family felt best described them.

“For a lot of people, the Y is their first entry point to experience Jewish culture,” stated Katznelson. “It’s a more relaxed way for them to do it. We want to show the community who we are, through the eyes of people who are already here.”

“The Y project is really about the sense of community in this neighborhood, and how diversified it is,” Ben-Zion added. “There are many interfaith and interracial couples who choose to reside here, because it feels welcoming and accepting.”

(exerps from the Mahattan Times Article entitled: On film: Family and faith Sobre la familia y la fe Posted by:  Erik Cuello in Arts Entertainment Local News April 15, 2015;

Read more about our June 7th event and ongoing gallery here.

About the Y
Established in 1917, the YM&YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood (the Y) is Northern Manhattan’s premier Jewish community center — serving an ethnically and socio-economically diverse constituency — improving the quality of life for people of all ages through critical social services and innovative programs in health, wellness, education, and social justice, while promoting diversity and inclusion, and caring for those in need.

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