The Washington Post has an article on Jerusalem’s “Kosher Gym,” which has separate hours for men and women and doesn’t have “MTV-tuned televisions and piped-in hip-hop.”
The Post doesn’t get everything right, of course. Observant Jews are not “encouraged to shun physical exercise in favor of time with the Torah.” I would say that yeshivos seem to treat PE with benign neglect, although getting physical exercise to stay healthy and energetic is part of guarding your health. It is a hyper-focus on sports and physical prowess that is discouraged. So going to a Kosher Gym doesn’t necessarily involve “emerging from their cloistered precincts” or finding “an athletic refuge away from their religious one.” The Kosher Gym in NY is so successful that it is actually two separate facilities — one each for men and women — complete with a library of Torah tapes so you can learn and lift at the same time.
But here’s an eye-catching passage. The article notes that the gym has “attracted a small clientèle of secular women tired of see-and-be-seen health clubs.” Would we say that health clubs in government buildings cannot provide separate hours? If we are not going to let the market figure it out for itself, but insist upon government intervention, how will we emerge with what female (and male) clients want, rather than what nine (secular) justices think they should want?
No one has complained about the segregated bus lines run by Superbus and other private companies. The complains are about Egged, which is the government-supported bus company. Big difference.
“I would say that yeshivos seem to treat PE with benign neglect…”
American yeshivos yes, Israeli yeshivos, no. In Israel, if you exercise or play sports, you are a bum.
“Observant Jews are not encouraged to shun physical exercise in favor of time with the Torah.”
– this is not a statement I agree with. Many are so encouraged by the system, overtly or tacitly.
Sorry, I think the writer got it correct. Unfortunately, there are many yeshivas that indeed regard physical activity and exercise as bittul Torah–and communicate that message to their students.
How could anybody suggest that American Yeshivos denigrate Physical exercise ? So many of the “big name” Yeshivos in Brooklyn and surrounding areas have large gyms. (This includes Mir and Torah Temimoh.)
A large cross-section of our American Gedollim, have emphasized, publicly and repeatedly, that Yeshiva students need to exercise and that this will help them to learn better, making it a Genuine example of “Beetullo ze’hu Keeyoomo”.
This approach was publicly advocated by HoRav Reuvain Feinstein at last year’s “Torah U’Mesorah convention” for Michancheem, as he and other Gedolim had already advocated in many other forums.
(According to rumor, a large Yeshiva near my home built its gym before the rest of the building, so its students could come over from the previous ‘headquarters’ to exercise even before the rest of the building was built.)
By contrast, in Eretz Yisro’ail, where the leading sports “stars” are Michallilai Shabbos Bi’Far’hes’yoh, and therefore the more traditional sports are looked down upon there, my Rebbi (when I learned in one of Eretz Yisro’ail’s mainstream Yehivos) encouraged us publicly to seek some other forms of exercise – particularly jogging after night Seder – and numerous Talmeedai Chacommeem in America today are among those who followed this practice while they were learning in Eretz Yisro’ail.
I can only report my personal experience when Rav Shalom Schwadron, zatzal was the mashgiach ruchni in the yeshiva I was attending. I think that we can agree that he represented chareidi hard right wingers?
At one point he castigated the boys for playing basketball in one of the local parks. I went over to him afterwards and asked him about the fact that a group of boys were going jogging in the neighborhood. He explained that he problem was not the ball playing – it was the undesirable elements in that park (nad it really was a very mixed neighborhood…) But as far as exercise in the proper environment he was very encouraging!
“and communicate that message to their students”
and even if it’s not that overt; it is certainly true that bochurim who place significant on exercise are not the ones rewarded by the system with the million dollar shidduch packages
Are you in favor of a free market approach to gyms, or in favor of gender separation? If you lived in a town that had 90% Charedim and 10% Jewish Chilonim, would you favor a town ordinance that forbade mixed gyms?
My wife & I go to the Kosher Gym in Flatbush, largely because it’s around the corner from us. There are two buildings, separated by the mechitzah of Coney Island Ave. And it’s not really any more expensive than Ballys, the other local gym.
As for physical exercise, Harold F. ’89 (Yaakov Menken knows him) once gave a shiur at Pennsic on the Shmoneh Perakim of the Rambam. When we got to the chapter on the value of physical exercise (mens sana in corpore sano), he prefaced it with “And this is the chapter that most yeshivas wish didn’t exist.”
Aside from the Rambam’s advice, that a physically healthy body will distract one less from the study of Torah, and will improve one’s study, there’s also the principle of “venishmartem me’od l’nafshoteichem”, take very good physical care of yourself. Being out of shape is unhealthy, says I, who is out of shape and just starting to go back to the gym.
I have an occasional chevruta from Gateshead who both goes to the gym (3 times a week) and encourages others to go – with some success. Interestingly they seem to have persuaded their local gym to allow separated sessions on most days (not much requirement erev Shabbat and Shabbat oddly!).
If it’s good enough for Gateshead it must, surely, be ok?
‘and even if it’s not that overt; it is certainly true that bochurim who place significant on exercise are not the ones rewarded by the system with the million dollar shidduch packages
Comment by Jewish Observer — April 30, 2007 @ 8:39 am ‘
Do you really believe that tripe?
My impression is that while yeshiva ketanahs do generally have organized physical education programs, the mechinas, mesivtas and beis medrashim do not. It is up to the student to participate in ad hoc, pick-up games. And my guess is that exercise equipment is also scarce at these places. I think yeshivas could do more to actively encourage participation and exercise. Many frum kids look to be way out of shape, thanks to an abundance of kosher junk food, and yes, limited time or incentive for organized and encouraged physical activity. It needs to be a priority, not an afterthought.