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?