Volume 74, Number 35 | January 05 - 11, 2005


Photos by Choi Wah Wong

A “Punk Rope” class on the roof of the Sol Goldman E. 14th Street Y, left, and rice cake pounding at a Japanese New Year celebration, right.

Art, exercise and humor; what does a body good

By Judith Stiles

If you put away your champagne glasses and party hats because you think you are done celebrating the New Year, think again, because the gala Japanese New Year’s Fair is coming up at the 14th Street Y, at 344 E. 14th St., on Sun., Jan.16. There won’t be any champagne but, instead, an authentic tea ceremony, a samurai sword demonstration by renowned samurai Yoshi Amai, crafts, games, origami folding, Japanese dance by Misachi Aoki and of course plenty of great Japanese food. This event is hosted by the Japanese Parenting and Family Center, which is housed at the Sol Goldman YM-YWHA of The Educational Alliance (a.k.a. The 14th Street Y).

And if you just can’t wait until Jan. 16, sign up for some innovative classes such as “Fire Spinning,” also known as “Poi,” which is the Maori word for a ball on a cord that is artistically swung around the body.

“I love this class because it is meditative and yet very challenging to manipulate the balls,” says Choi Wah Wong, as she deftly demonstrates a complicated routine. Wong loved this class so much that she stayed at the Y to become part of an exciting influx of new programs put together by a team of administrators, of which Wong is now the associate director of marketing. Along with Director Margo Bloom and Susan Lyddon, director of marketing and management, The Sol Goldman Y has thoroughly reinvented itself in the past year, responding to the needs of the neighborhood. There are now free community workshops for expectant and new parents, classes on diets and nutrition (which you might need for your New Year’s resolution) and a brand new class called “Keeping Your Brain Sharp” for the young at heart and anyone who wants to pick up some effective tools to help improve his or her memory.

While embracing the needs of different groups in the community, the Y still has a strong focus on wonderful programs for the Jewish community. Director of Jewish adult and arts program Alyssa Abrahamson hosts a monthly literary series called “Novel Jews” that explores new fiction and nonfiction in the cozy setting of the Lower East Side’s KGB bar on E. 4th St. Rabbi Jeff Roth holds a workshop called “Waking Up in Your Life: A Day of Silent Jewish Meditation.” There is an intergenerational Purim celebration, and check out “The Genius of Jewish Comedy” with Susan Horowitz. She describes this class as a chance to “listen to Jewish jokes and when the laughter subsides, learn what they tell us about our culture and values.”

For adults and youth, the Y offers language classes in Spanish, Yiddish, a “Hebrew Reading Crash Course,” as well as two levels of sign language, co-sponsored by the New York Society for the Deaf.

As part of the community outreach program, local artists from the Federation of East Village Artists were brought in under a program called East Village Arts Lab to teach classes. Besides getting in touch with imagination and creativity, artist Ed Woodham, who leads the Arts Lab program, describes the classes as beneficial because they also “improve focus and concentration, develop hand/eye coordination, improve decision making and problem solving as well as give the artist a sense of accomplishment.” Children can enjoy puppetry, mixed media, cartooning and there is a class called “Big Kid’s Messy Play,” where young artists can explore the joys of texture, color, sand, paint, bubbles and more, where they can feel free to make a mess and it is not in your living room!

To avoid the post-holiday doldrums, take a swim in the E. 14th St. Y’s beautiful pool or sign up for Pilates, basketball or a variety of fitness classes. As part of the “reinvention program” at the Y, there is a new emphasis on classes for young mothers, who now do not have to hire a babysitter to step out, but rather can attend classes with the young ones, such as “Mothers’ Knitting Circle.” Moms can spend Friday afternoons knitting in the Y’s sunny, comfortable playroom, while babies interact with each other within eyesight of mom and a teaching assistant. There is “Mommy Baby Yoga,” “Infant Massage” and support groups for single moms, as well as for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender parents who need insight into “exploring sensitive issues that arise in interaction with schools and other institutions,” as described in the brochure.

The 72-page catalog of classes and activities provides a smorgasbord of winter activities designed to avoid the January blues. Don’t forget, if you are a new mom and you don’t want to crack up with cabin fever, there is a special class for you called “Moms Cracking Up!” a comedy outing for mom and baby with some of New York’s finest comedians. And if you don’t have a baby, and aren’t a mom, see Susan Lyddon, director of marketing and membership, because in response, she just might jumpstart a comedy program for local denizens without babies, who need a good laugh in the winter, too.

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