For Women Only: West Hartford JCC follows New Haven with women-only swim times

By Cindy Mindell

The Mandell JCC of Greater Hartford is breaking ground again. Not with shovels, but with a new swim time just for women.

“The JCC is a big tent, so we need to open all the flaps,” says JCC executive director David Jacobs. “We have always been aware that there are women in the community who will not swim in mixed male-female groups.”
When offered in the past, response to a women’s swim session was low, but with expanded JCC facilities and membership, the administration decided that the time was right to try again. Jacobs says that he has been encouraged by Rabbi Yitzchok Adler of Beth David Synagogue and Rabbi Mordechai Weiss of Hebrew Academy of Greater Hartford. But they were not alone in welcoming the change.
“This is a welcome opportunity not only for very observant women, but for those who prefer to exercise with a bit more privacy. I welcome the new hours,” said Rabbi David Small of The Emanuel Synagogue, a Conservative congregation in West Hartford.
Jacobs confirmed that it isn’t only religiously observant women who have raised the issue. Women with body-image concerns, perhaps as the result of surgery, have also approached JCC administration, he says.
As a trial period through June 11, the JCC will offer two weekly hour-long time slots: Tuesdays from 2 to 3 p.m. and Wednesdays from 8:15 to 9:15 p.m. The observation windows on the pool balcony will be covered and female lifeguards will be on duty.
The greater Hartford facility is not the only JCC in Connecticut to offer a women’s-only swim. The Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven has a weekly women’s-only swim on Tuesdays from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. – as well as a male-only swim Monday nights.
Other JCCs, however, have not followed suit.
The JCC of Stamford tried several years ago but was met with little response, says director of aquatics Ellen Pradella. Likewise, at the JCC of Eastern Fairfield County, the idea was raised a year or so ago, to tepid community response. “It’s something we would do if someone approached me,” says Alison Lurie, director of children and family programs.
The Mandell JCC is offering free guest passes to non-members who would like to try out the new swim session. For more information: (860) 236-4571 / www.mandelljcc.org

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