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Thou Shall Not Swim…Or Shall Thou?

The 92nd St YM/YWHA in New York City, one of the most venerable of Jewish comunal institutions in North America, made a significant decision this week, as reported in a New York Times article, “Keeping the Faith and the Fitness Center Alive.” Its gym will now be open until 8pm on Fridays and much of the day on Saturdays, which is of course Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath. At the same time, the facility will also offer more religious programming by sponsoring Friday night Shabbat dinners and Saturday morning Torah classes for children. While the Y has 6,000 members, over half of those who belong to its health club are not Jewish. So is the Y making a statement about its responsibility to the general community or is it recognizing that Jewish people interpret “Sabbath rest” in a variety of ways? How does a communal institution set policies that reflect the continuum of practices of the community?



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