Saturday, November 26, 2005

"Jewry of Muscle"*

I go running almost exclusively on Jewish holidays, in part because I have those days off from work, and in part because I so enjoy being asked to pray with Hasidic 14-year-olds in Prospect Park. So I can't really come out against the 92nd Street Y's decision to keep its gym open on Shabbat, at least not from a self-righteous perspective. While part of me wants to say, ick, this is the final triumph of cultural/crass Judaism over the real deal, the cult of the body over monotheism, the other part of me thinks it's like Zabar's selling ham--things are as they are, and catering to a relatively small observant population as a formality, when there are options for those who care about such things, is unneccessary and phony.

New York Judaism is as much about being shomer everything as about mimicking Woody Allen in your neurosis and hangups. Which all goes back to Hannah Arendt's point about Judaism versus "Jewishness," the latter being what came out of emancipation and assimilation, an identity based not on religion or nationality but on certain identifying qualities, ethnic or behavioral, that forever marked Jews as different from those around them. It's a transition from, "Jews are those who believe the Messiah has yet to arrive, and who don't eat certain foods" to, "Jews are so funny and clever, a bit conniving, yes, but their men are supposed to make great husbands." It's all sort of, yuck, and makes me want to move to Israel, where perhaps things are a bit different than they are here. Or maybe Israel appeals to me for other reasons...

Also, the Manhattan JCC's on 70-something, not, as the NYT article says, 86th, as will be known by 112% of those reading it.

*Apologies to Max Nordau, who presumably didn't have elliptical machines in mind.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps I'm missing some background. Why would the Young (Wo?)Men's Christian Association close its gym for shabbat? That doesn't quite compute for me.


Phoebe said...

"92nd Street Young Men's and Young Women's Hebrew Association"--

Anonymous said...

Sweet. Abbreviated acronyms for all!