A fitness instructor ‘barre’ none

Lori Laub connects body and soul in her work as a barre instructor and commemorator of the Holocaust.

I have been on a journey my entire life,” said Lori Laub.

It’s a journey that has led the Goldens Bridge resident to turn her passion for fitness into a career as an instructor in barre, which she describes as “a fusion of ballet, Pilates and yoga.” But Laub is about more than that. The daughter of a Holocaust survivor and a student of Kabbalah — a form of ancient Jewish mysticism — she is also on a spiritual quest and a mission to see that the lessons of the past are not forgotten.

We first met Laub in a barre class she conducted at Neiman Marcus Westchester co-sponsored by Courtyard Travel and Oceania Cruises. (See related stories.) 

With its roots also in orthopedic exercises for the core of the body, barre was developed in the 1960s and ’70s by dancer Lotte Berk.

We didn’t have a barre at Neiman Marcus. But that didn’t matter. Laub — who teaches at The RITE Method Barre Studio in Rye Brook, the Hiit*Barre Studio in the House of Sports in Ardsley and the Saw Mill Club in Mount Kisco — led the class, guiding us through small, subtle but strenuous moves designed to sculpt the body. It was a challenge that was revelatory. We realized that whatever your body type or fitness level, everyone can and should strive to have good form, as that will enable you to get the most out of a workout.

This is particularly important as we get older, Laub said. 

“As we age, we get tighter. You want to remain fluid and strong.”

She was talking after an energizing class at The RITE Method, a cozy storefront studio on Rye Brook’s Bowman Avenue (Biltmore Plaza).  RITE stands for Resistant Interval Training Exercise, which involves lifting small hand weights, pliés on relevé (open-legged, turned-out squats on the balls of your feet) leg stretches on one of two barres — the lower one being good for newbies like us; and pushups, along with other toning exercises. (We felt it the next day but not in an unpleasant way.)

Maybe it was the pink, ballet shoe-style socks with grips studio owner Jill Goldman provided or the welcoming tone set by Lorraine Benowich, who curates the studio’s activewear, or Laub’s empathetic nature — “I’m feeling it just like you are,” she said — but we had no trouble adjusting to the class’ demands.

Afterward, Laub told us her story.

“It started 16 years ago,” she said. “I was a student of the barre method…and I realized I happen to love this.”

She decided to seek certification to improve her own workouts. One thing led to another and the student became a teacher — one who has a Goldilocks approach. When she came around to deepen the class members’ stretches, her touch was not too forceful or too gentle. It was just right.

“To me, it’s amazing how life turns and things fall into your lap. When you let go of fear, doors open up. Now I get to inspire others. It’s really healing.”

For Laub, the healing is also necessary. She is the daughter of Josef Guttman Best, who was born in Poland in 1925, the eldest of six children, and survived not one but at least four concentration camps during the Holocaust, including Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Through his crucible, he never lost his faith or his sense of humor, Laub said. Ultimately, he was adopted by an American sergeant from Brooklyn, William Best, who helped liberate Buchenwald on April 11, 1945.

Laub, however, never knew her father’s story, which he kept hidden from the family even as she glimpsed the tattooed number on his left arm. There were other glimpses of the past. In 1993, future grandmother-in-law, Evelyn Laub, received a photograph of a young man weeping in the arms of a soldier that she recognized as Lori’s father and his adopted father. (The photo is now in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.)

Then in 2005, her friend Wendy’s son, Max Meyer, interviewed Laub’s father as part of his bar mitzvah. It was almost as if her father needed the emotional distance of a third party to tell his story, Laub said.

Laub’s father, who lost his entire family in the Holocaust, died in 2009. Today, Laub — chairwoman of the Holocaust Remembrance Committee at Temple Shaaray in Bedford — tells her father’s story and celebrates his life.

These days, there’s much to celebrate in the Laub family. Daughter Melanie — a tennis enthusiast and future physician’s assistant — graduated from George Washington University last month. Son Travis John, who graduates from John Jay High School in Katonah this month, is off to the University of Miami. Laub and husband Andrew, who is the co-founding CEO of the private equity firm Keneh Ventures, are celebrating their 24th wedding anniversary.

Soon they’ll be empty nesters. “It’s scary, but I found my role,” Laub said. “I found my niche. I’m looking for the next chapter. I keep learning, growing, moving, finding the light in others so they can shine it.”

For more on Lori Laub, visit her on Instagram @lorilaub. For more on The RITE Method Barre Studio, visit ritemethod.com.

Fierce and Regal, whose clothes are featured in the photograph of Laub, will have a trunk show of activewear and athleisure attire at Life Time Athletic Westchester in Harrison June 9 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more, visit fierceandregal.com.

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