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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Shabbat at the JCC

The topic of the week seems to be the operating of JCC's on Saturdays and Jewish holidays. In this piece from the NY Sun, the Staten Island Orthodox community is up in arms over their local JCC planning to remain open on Saturdays. And the topic in general of JCC's operating on Shabbat and holidays is addressed in this week's Jewish Week as well.

In Staten Island, the JCC seems to have gone to great pains to remain inclusive to all members of the Jewish community. They have instituted a schedule of separate swimming hours for men and women, as well as a Sunday sports program to acommodate Shabbat observers. The question seems to be whether the JCC should be similarly inclusive of non-observant Jews by allowing them the option of recreating on Saturdays. My knee-jerk response was that it seems to me to be unreasonable for Staten Island's Orthodox community to expect a non-Orthodox Jewish association to follow rules that they do not consider applicable to them. Though I do feel that it would be great if the JCC would have agreed instantly to close on Saturdays to minimize the public desecration of Shabbat, it just seems unrealistic in the year 2006 to have that expectation, and seems like the Orthodox who oppose it are themselves risking being seen as less then inclusive. When I mentioned the topic to OrthoDad, however, he had a different take. While he agrees that it might be an unrealistic goal for the Staten Island Orthodox community, he feels that their uproar is perfectly justified. As he pointed out, as Orthodox Jews, though we might respect those who are not observant, we should never view that as a desirable life choice, and no amount interest in being inclusive can stand in the way of that inescapable fact. And so although my thoughts on the matter tend toward more of a live-and-let-live kind of attitude, I can see where my husband has a point.

He also pointed out that the Orthodox community in Baltimore, MD organized an uproar over a similar proposal by the local JCC to open on Saturdays, and that they were successful in getting the proposal rejected.

Interestingly, some of the complaints in the Jewish Week piece come from a family who are self-described as "somewhat observant" Conservative Jews who objected to the fact that the 92nd St. Y had scheduled some of their son's art classes over Sukkot and Simchat Torah, which actually tells us that this issue isn't just an Orthodox one.

So what's my word on the subject? I can understand JCC's remaining open on Saturdays and holidays - but I would love to see them draw the line at doing so only for Shabbat and Yom Tov programming, especially as the articles point out that most do not allow money to change hands on those days. I am aware that there are people who probably rely on these associations for much of their Jewish connections, and I can understand such programs' value. Still, the thought of an organization calling itself a Jewish one and yet routinely scheduling extracurricular classes of a non-Jewish theme, scheduling sports leagues, or opening their gym on Shabbat and holidays does get to me. Does it get to me enough to stand outside and protest? Well, probably not. But I'm not sure that the fact that in this day and age, I'm so inured to the trangression of Shabbat that I can shrug it off is something to be particularly proud of.

42 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This brings to mind a story of when I an MO lived in Flatbush and relied upon the Eruv, only to be called a macahall shabbat for pushing my child to shul. It cuts both ways. If the Orthos want the pool hours they need to be a little flexiable, or resign as a member.

10:34 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

If the Orthos want the pool hours they need to be a little flexiable, or resign as a member.

I agree from a realistic point of view. They want inclusiveness, they should have to show the same quality towards others. Orthodad was just pointing out the fact that as an Orthodox Jew, my hands-off policy toward the actions of other Jews isn't necessarily the right one, even if it feels right. His point is that I SHOULD care if the local JCC has Saturday hours, even if my first reaction is not to care.

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Make your point publically (as u have and move on). If the JCC gets an ortho board the schedule will change.

Unlike the holy roller in Flatbush who yelld at me for 2 blocks

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

inclusiveness

This topic has come up many time here in the 5 towns. There was amove a # of years ago to "invite" your neighbor to shul, but many were worried how should I react when they recipricate and want me to come to their reform or conservative service. Live and Let live.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The JCC of the Five Towns wants open a mixed use with separate hours pool and gym on Temple Israel Central Avenue proeprty with assurances of their Shmeris Shabbos but is the other JCC's are proof of what could happen then we have more to worry about. If you to JCC of FIve Towns web site you will see there are only two orthodox board members and that can change any time. Also nothig will stop the Temple Israel members from renting the pool privately for a pool party bar mitzva on Shabbos. They already have weddings on Shabbos and that is a reform Jew's choice but why should the orthodox communitiy want to encourage a new JCC in the heart of Lawrence?

11:54 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

The difference, Anonymous, is that the majority of the 5T community is observant and JCCs do tend to respond to the wishes of their members. If there's no demand for Shabbat opening, it won't happen. Again, look at Baltimore.

Don't forget, the new JCC will be serving the whole 5T community--frum people included.

Personally, I feel (and have always felt despite varying levels of observance) that Jewish organisations should respect Jewish tradition so that all can participate. Even when I happily ate anything treif, I believed that Hillel/the JCC/etc should serve kosher food and that they should respect Shabbat and Yom Tov. For me it's about a commitment to Jewish identity and tradition, and it never offended me that I couldn't go to the JCC pool on Shabbat.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

I understand why the Orthodox community would be upset about this, it is not hard to follow. At the same time I want to ask a general question about their goals.

We know for a fact that some Jews are never going to be "Torah Observant." They are not going to keep Kosher, they are not going to be Shomer Shabbos. However, if we give them a place at the table they will come. And not only will they come some of them will have family/friends that come along too and it is possible that their exposure might lead to something more.

Several of my friends who are BT got started in a similar fashion.

IMO, The point here being is that if the Orthodox community wants more Jews to head down their derech inclusiveness is the best policy.

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

IMO, The point here being is that if the Orthodox community wants more Jews to head down their derech inclusiveness is the best policy.

Excellent. Is't that Chabad's approach. We will tolorate your actions if you will participate.

1:21 PM  
Blogger aries2756 said...

If the rules of the JCC is that the Pool is closed on Shabbat and Yomim Tovim, then it is closed. We do not have to worry that the Temple would rent it out for a Shabbat bar mitzvah. The pool is rented by the JCC and is no longer under the usage of the Temple, therefore if it is not available on Shabat there is nothing to talk about.

As a frum member of the community and a person who works with kids, it is very important that we have a pool in this community. I am very upset that things did not work out in the other location, but I can't sit and cry about it. We have to work with what we have to work with. For those who are upset that the JCC has only two frum Board Members..what do you think you can do about it? Whining doesn't help. Get all your frum neighbors to become members of the JCC. The more frum members there are the more chances we have to get more frum members on the board. If we don't get involved we have no right to complain. The JCC is trying to offer, and is offering various programs in the neighborhood, so take advantage and make suggestions of your own. If you want the JCC to really and truly be a part of the frum community, roll up your sleeves and get to work. Don't complain and wait for others to do it for you.

It is vital that we have a good working JCC here. We need a prevention program for our children, to help them from losing their self-esteem and winding up on the streets. There is no more room on the streets, if you haven't already noticed. We need more programs, such as the pool, where adults and children can stay connected and do things together without being afraid of each other or think it is not "cool" to be friends. Kids need to have good caring adults in their lives and a good working JCC is one of the components that help that along. Our kids haven't a place where they can have Kosher Fun. We can have that at the JCC if we want it. All we have to do is get involved.

So what is it going to be? Are we just going to sit at home or on our computers and complain about them building a pool across the street from us, or down the block or in our neighborhood? Or are we going to go down their and speak to them, ask them what they are offering us, give them our own ideas, have a meaningful diaglogue about our needs and join up?

Sherree Belsky
Director
Kids Count Foundation

1:42 PM  
Blogger aries2756 said...

I'm not sure what the question is here. Does the JCC have to be open for athletic activities which should not be done on Shabbat? Or should the JCC be open for Shabat services?

If you are talking about keeping a JCC open so that people who are not frum can come join in the experience of Shabbat and Yomim Tovim then why not, absolutely there are ways to keep it open like any shul is open and available. However, if you are keeping facilities open to allow others to be michalel Shabbos, what is the point? They can use the facilities any other day of the week. There are many stores and many businesses that are closed for the weekends and they know they can not use those facilities and they don't complain about that. Nail salons are almost all closed on Mondays, and no one seems to complain about that. So what is really the big issue here? A Jewish facility does not have to be open on Shabbas to accomodate non-observant Jews, when they can comfortably use that same facility on Sunday.

Goyim have "Blue Laws" where the whole community must keep their shops closed on Sunday and even non-religious or non-observant goyim and Jews alike understand this. We do not have to bend over backwards to make accomodations that are easily made other days and not on the Shabbat. They can do whatever they want on Shabbat if they don't want to observe Shabbat and use the facilities instead on Sunday. If you think about it in a logical and reasonable way, you can see where this makes sense. No facility has to be opened 7 days a week. We choose to close the facility on Saturdays, others on Sundays, others may choose to close on Wednesdays. People around us will acclimate to our schedule as we do to the schedules of other facilities we use. Just because we are religious Jews, and we have non-religious Jews who come to us, we do not have to bend over backwards to help them be mechalel.

We respect them as human beings and we ask the same from them. If this is our rule, it is our rule. If we don't allow for wiggle room and for discussion there won't be any.

2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what the question is here.

To clarify. The SI JCC is giverned by secular jews. They want to be open of shabbat for use of the facilites (sport etc), amybe some religious. The ortho community is upset about this. While no on is questioning that the orthos consider those who use the JCC on Shabbat for non religious purposes to be mechalal shabbat, obviously those who so use the facility do not consider them selves to be mechallal shabbat, but still consider them selves to be good jews, beacuse they are in part members of the JCC, so

a - do we take otherwise unaffiliated jews, and unaffilliate them because the orthos want to have seperate swim hours and a shomer shabbat JCC, or

b- do the ortho's show their displeasure in non violent means (resign, join and overcome the non religious majority and change the rules etc)??

My feeling. B

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's the Staten Island Advance, not the NY Sun.

2:39 PM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

I remember seeing the famous bumper sticker in Baltimore, "Keep the JCC closed on Shabbos" -- on a car driving ON Shabbos!

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jameel @ The Muqata said...
I remember seeing the famous bumper sticker in Baltimore, "Keep the JCC closed on Shabbos" -- on a car driving ON Shabbos

WHOO, Jameel is in an orthomom thread. My 2 favorite bloggers

4:03 PM  
Blogger YMedad said...

Gee, it seems a bit tough living in Galus.

5:51 PM  
Blogger YMedad said...

And btw, that's it? You're back blogging and nary a word about the hiatus?

5:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nary a word about the hiatus?


orthomom is smart. If she discusses her hiatus it might lead on as to where she was and then her cover is blown.

7:20 PM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

Here in the Bronx, the Riverdale Y is closed on Shabat and Yom Tov, but Bronx House has been open on Shabat for decades. Bronx House mostly serves a non-Jewish clientele today -- one of the few such Jewish institutions in the New York area. But Riverdale is still mostly a non-Jewish neighborhood, and most of the Jews are non-observant. I vaguely remember Rabbi Avi Weiss saying a year ago that 3/4 of the Jews in Riverdale would not enter *any* shul on Yom Kippur (not even a Reform or Conservative shul). That is in spite of three decades of efforts by one of the most successful kiruv rabbis anywhere -- Rabbi Weiss!

12:09 AM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

I had intended to mention in the previous comment that both Bronx House and the Riverdale Y have had separate single-sex swimming times for some time, even though, as mentioned, neither Pelham Parkway nor Riverdale are predominently Orthodox.

12:24 AM  
Blogger Ari Kinsberg said...

ymedad:

"Gee, it seems a bit tough living in Galus."

i think you have the same disputes in your neck of the woods as well.

1:44 AM  
Blogger YMedad said...

Yes, but here in Shiloh, if things get really bad, we can shoot back.

5:43 AM  
Blogger aries2756 said...

OK, here is my humble opinion.

A while back there was a huge ad in the 5TJT from the tznius police of Boro Park, literally shouting that the women in this community were responsible for all evils in this world because we wore slits, short sleeves, open collars, didn't cover our hair properly, etc., etc., etc.,

After receiving a few phone calls from some irate women, I looked for the ad in the paper, I hadn't seen it myself, and I was just as offended as they were. Low and behold there was a phone number on the bottom of the ad. I picked up the phone and called the number. A chasidish man answered. First I was taken aback because I expected a lady to answer the phone. So I asked him what right he had coming into our neighborhood to give us muser?

Firstly I said, he shouldn't be looking at the women at all, that was wrong. Secondly I asked him if he knew anything about us and what the women do here? Did he know about all the chesed, tzedaka, and programs the women do for the K'lal and for E"Y? Of course not. So who was he to judge? Did he know what the Torah says about jews judging each other? Hashem is the only Judge and never appointed him to do the job.

I told him in no uncertain terms to stay in his own neighborhood and fix the problems there before he goes mixing into someone else's business. I haven't seen another ad in the paper have you?

What's my point. If the JCC in Staten Island is run by secular jews and they are nice enough to understand the needs of the religious community by offering the separate swimming hours, the frum community should show "hakoras hatov" and not try to take control of them.

However, if they can think of creative programs to ask for in the JCC that can enlighten and entice the secular jews to join, and if they can become productive and contributing members to the JCC then maybe eventually down the road, in a few years, they might consider closing on Shabbat out of respect both for the Shabbat and their wonderful members.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Just because we are religious Jews, and we have non-religious Jews who come to us, we do not have to bend over backwards to help them be mechalel.

The finger that you are pointing can be pointed right back at you. The same thing can be said about you.

If you are cold does the whole world have to wear a sweater.

You may not like it, but there are millions of Jews who are not Shomer Shabbos who do not feel badly about it. They don't spend a moment feeling guilty. They don't see this as a problem and if you ask them they might say something like

People around us will acclimate to our schedule as we do to the schedules of other facilities we use.

11:11 AM  
Blogger aries2756 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:04 PM  
Blogger aries2756 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

we do not have to bend over backwards to help them be mechalel

If you are a member of the JCC does that mean that you are fostering mechalal shabbat??

If you see a non-religious jew being mechallal is it your obligation to stop them??

Its the same argument by those who watch TV and dont like what they are seeing. Turn it off or change the channel.

If you dont like what the JCC is doing don't join.

2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

okay well here we go

Small Aircraft Crashes Into New York City High Rise, Killing Yankees Pitcher Cory Lidle

3:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In a community where the JCC wanted to open on saturday only for cultural and educational programs, the local Orthodox rabbi objected, saying that the greater sin was in tempting people to violate shabbos by having to drive to the JCC. The president of the JCC suggested that the rabbi close his shul on saturday for the same reason, since his president and others drove there every Saturday and parked a few blocks away.

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In a community where the JCC wanted to open on saturday only for cultural and educational programs, the local Orthodox rabbi objected, saying that the greater sin was in tempting people to violate shabbos by having to drive to the JCC. The president of the JCC suggested that the rabbi close his shul on saturday for the same reason, since his president and others drove there every Saturday and parked a few blocks away.



this has nothing to do with a community like SI or the 5 towns. Maybe out of town.

Thr fact of the matter is the JCC is a member orginization. No one is forced to join, just like no one is forced to join any other orginzation. You don't like how they operate, take over the management or resign as a member. The premise that the JCChas to bend to the whims of the community that is a minority is foolish. They people who will travel ther by car on Shabbat do not consider their action mechallal they are not enligthined as us orthos, and by enforcing a shomer shabbat rule for them in an orgnization that is only nominally religious is foolish. Protest and or resign but don't for a minuite think that if the orthos come into power and lose on sahbbat that the nonorthos will stay as members. There has to be some happy medium.

9:56 PM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

And now for a very serious comment:

In my yishuv, there is almost a 50-50 mix of secular and religious Jews. When we built a municipal pool a few years back, the issue of being open on shabbat came up. Both sides were extremely adamant in their desire to keep it open or closed...and since unity was the most important issue at hand, we worked out the following compromise.

The pool would remain open on shabbat, HOWEVER, there would be no financial transactions available; if you wanted to go to the pool on shabbat, you needed to either be a member (and just show your membership card) or purchase tickets in advance before shabbat. No cash registers were open...if you didn't have a ticket; tough luck. Additionally, there would be no concession stand open on shabbat, so no food would be cooked or sold.

Granted, this is not the ideal halachik situation for those who insisted on keeping it closed on shabbat; people would still drive to the pool, people would still swim and shower...However, the Kashrut of the concession stand would remain intact and the pool as a Jewish rec center would not be michalel shabbat by charging money.

On the other hand, the people using the pool were not 100% thrilled either, as they couldn't buy food there, and the issue was a minor inconvenience.

The bottom line is -- the solution works.

As important as it was for both sides to have their viewpoints validated, it was far more important for us to continue living as a united community.

With all the disharmony going on in our universe, I'm glad that we managed to pull ourselves together and do the right thing.

5:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jameel, great solution, but the orthos here are more militant then those of u in the mquata, and they have an all or nothing attitude.

7:37 AM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

anonymous: Actually, I disagree (though I'm not personally knowledgeable about the Staten Island JCC). Who actually CARES about the JCC to begin with from an Orthodox perspective (and who uses it?). If anything, it's Modern Orthodox or the Left Wing Yeshivish crowd -- and they are not as "militant" as the crowd to the right of them.

Honestly? I think this is a perfect opportunity for Staten Island to attempt to come up with a mutually agreeable solution.

9:20 AM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Jameel-I love the solution. I don't think you create a respect for Shabbat by shoving it down people's throats. But, by creating institutional policy that is Shabbat friendly, the chance of creating respect for the day is much higher.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Jameel,

That is a solution that I can agree with. I like it.

12:12 PM  
Blogger FiveTownEyes said...

Jack Shack said "We know for a fact that some Jews are never going to be "Torah Observant." They are not going to keep Kosher, they are not going to be Shomer Shabbos. However, if we give them a place at the table they will come. And not only will they come some of them will have family/friends that come along too and it is possible that their exposure might lead to something more."

I couldn't agree more. Being examples and warm can go a long way, especially in this chaotic community. The FTJCC can be an example, rather than another forum for exclusion.

YEARS before the the FT JCC was so secular and small, there was the Hartman Y in Far Rockaway that was more popular and welcomed all. Those who were not observant were treated with warmth and kindness, yet they closed early on Friday, closed Saturday and ran wonderful programs on Saturday night and Sunday. The FT JCC can really learn lessons from the old Hartman Y days.

12:13 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Great solution, Jameel. It's right in line with my feelings on the subject.

12:14 PM  
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