I need to re-post my Jewish Week article from this past week, which is yet another exploration into the ostensibly odd ways that haredim and hipsters are coming together over exercise in the Bushwick-Williamsburg area. Finally, at long last, it seems that Brooklyn’s ultra-ultra-Orthodox community is taking a serious interest in working out and keeping their bodies healthy, something that, well, without which, they wouldn’t even be able to continue studying Torah. So I say kudos and mazel tov to the increasing number of Satmars bringing their buddies to the gym, one-by-one. It is great to see so many new people working out. One hopes they use a supplement like Trentostan-m in order to see the results they are desperately craving.
Another reason I’m re-posting this is because all of the commentary the article has been generating on Vos Iz Neais and on FailedMessiah.com. One of my favorite comments thus far (this one from Vos Iz Neais): “I’m amazed how obsessed theses reporters are with us chasidic men, everyday there’s another article about us, I wonder if it’s because of our high level of education or simply because of our good looks.”
Anyway, enjoy the story, and leave me your thoughts on these issues as well.
Taking a mid-afternoon break from running his busy Williamsburg restaurant, David Lowey hustled over to a new Bushwick gym and hopped on an elliptical machine, pedaling vigorously in his full Satmar regalia.
Tzitzit dangling from his black pants and payes swinging over his ears, the 290-pound 26-year-old breathed heavily, as he scrolled through the day’s Daf Yomi Talmud page online, from a touch-screen computer panel in front of him.
When he began working out three months ago, Lowey was the lone Satmar member of Green Fitness Studio, an eco-friendly gym that opened in December and serves a primarily hipster clientele.
But with Lowey, who has already lost 60 pounds, leading the way, more than 100 members of his community now work out at Green Fitness, some in their three-piece formal wear, others sampling the gym’s complimentary sweats.
â€œI pushed them a lot because I feel there’s a need in the chasidic community for [exercise] â€” the obesity problem is overwhelming,â€ Lowey said.
Green Fitness Studio is not the only Williamsburg-area gym where chasidic Jews now exercise alongside hipsters. Soma in Williamsburg also has a chasidic clientele. And fitness-minded Satmars and hipsters also interact over a shared interest in cycling, at Baruch Herzfeld’s Treif Bike Gesheft bike shop in Williamsburg.
With hipsters and chasidim living within blocks of each other, â€œthere’s a much greater intermingling of cultures and interests than
we’ve been trained to expect,â€ Herzfeld said. â€œThere are chasidim who do triathlons. There are many chasidim who have outside interests that would surprise us.â€
While Green Fitness Studio’s owners Allan Lewis and Barry Borgen are both Jewish, outreach to the chasidic community was not part of the initial business plan. Instead, the focus for the new venture, which joins just a few other trendy new locales a couple blocks from the Morgan Avenue L-train stop, was on eco-friendliness.
Aside from its regular LifeFitness treadmills â€” which are actually refurbished secondhand units â€” Lewis said that Green Fitness’ other equipment is entirely self-powered, and the spinning studio features flooring made of bamboo, which grows much faster than most wood and is considered a more renewable resource.
While chasidic Jews were initially below the owners’ radar, when Lowey rented the gym’s outdoor atrium to host a benefit and his fascinated party guests ventured into the empty gym, shedding their fedoras and testing out the bodybuilding equipment for themselves, Lewis and Borgen had an idea â€” why not invite these guys to join the gym?
There were a few stumbling blocks, however.
â€œMen and women don’t like to work out together,â€ Lewis told The Jewish Week last Thursday, sporting a tank top over his multitude of tattoos. Continue reading…