Before I tell you how I survived Klezmer Aerobics, here’s a little backstory:
Growing up in New York City, the only rabbi I ever had any contact with was the “rabbi” in my middle school production of Fiddler on the Roof. I remember that year’s show because of the lead, Ruben Torres. Who knew a Puerto Rican Tevye could be that good? But I digress.
I recently got an email from Daniel Brenner, a rabbi who lives in my neighborhood, inviting me to something called “Klezmer Aerobics.” Was it a show? a class? maybe both?
This was my train of thought:
I’m a fan of klezmer music, which reminds me of the Isaac Bashevis Singer books I loved in college, and the Klezmer brunches I’ve attended in Manhattan. I’m also a fan of aerobics, beginning in the 80s when I, a “robust” child, started watching Richard Simmons to get inspired to lose weight, and continuing through to classes at the University of Wisconsin, where 200 people would fill a huge gym, all dressed in spandex with those little loops that go around your foot. HOT!
So I thought “hey, I like klezmer. I like aerobics,” and purchased two tickets online.
Upon entering Klezmer Aerobics I was given a fuchsia, 80s style Terri cloth headbands. Our warm up featured some disco, and a tribute to our dearly departed Prince. I hadn’t done these cheesy aerobic moves for years but got into it immediately. Who doesn’t like aerobics? It’s permission to dance in public regardless of coordination, or risk of humiliation.
As Hall and Oates began grooving into some snappy, but slower, klezmer music. Rabbi Brenner started telling the group a tale: In a small town there was a young boy. This boy began to learn the traditional dances of his people, but began making some changes. New changes. Progressive changes.
Our fitness moves began acting out the story; Swaying imaginary handkerchiefs from side to side with each hand, as we moved our feet in a basic aerobics step; Skipping around the room; Greeting one another, just as our ancestors had at their weddings. It was part story-time, part exercise class, part history lesson and part human connection. I loved it.
I thought about the class for days. Tapping into the the 1880s was a perfect antidote to much of the “snapchat/ comment/objectify/ridicule” culture I see around me today. I am always longing for an alternative life without the laptop I am typing on right now. Klezmer Aerobics is that alternative reality. New York Sports Club should start an ongoing Klezmer Aerobics experience every Tuesday and Thursday from 7:30 -8:30AM.
I’ll be the first to sign up.
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