A Court Closes in Brooklyn (The New Yorker.com)
The Talmud has nothing to say about basketball, but it does include a word or two about the Sabbath. At a hardwood half-court on Eastern Parkway, in Brooklyn, there’s no shooting, screen-setting, or rebounding allowed between Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, when the sound of squeaking sneakers and dribbled balls might disrupt the prayerful. The court belongs to a raggedy neighborhood gym called Eastern Athletic, which, for the past twenty-eight years, has leased the top six floors of the oldest reform synagogue in the borough.
John Turturro, the actor and director, has been playing at Eastern Athletic for more than twenty years, shoving and sparring on weekday mornings with a close-knit group of gym regulars. “It’s like therapy, only much cheaper than going to a psychiatrist,” he said between jump shots, while warming up for a recent morning pickup game. He was wearing gray Capri sweats and red-tipped CP3 sneakers. “You come here and get your ass kicked.”
It wasn’t immediately clear who would be administering the treatment. The elevator walls were covered in signs advertising “Shabbot for Tots” and a lesbian Jewish film night. The court, which has been there since the temple was established, in 1926, is walled off from a phalanx of weight machines and exercise equipment of nineties vintage. Two elderly men were sprawled on the floor, their legs splayed over medicine balls. An oldies station played over a patchy speaker system to a mostly empty house.