At Congregation B’nai Tzedek, pickleball for the body and soul

Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt sits with preschoolers to watch construction of the synagogue’s sports court. Photo courtesy of Congregation B’nai Tzedek

Members of Congregation B’nai Tzedek will soon be able to nourish not only their souls through worship, but also their bodies through physical activity thanks to the synagogue’s new multiuse sports court.

The Silverman Family Sports Court was recently built over a three-week period and will soon be open for synagogue and independent activities.

The sports court was a longtime pet project of Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, who initially envisioned it as a basketball court. The opportunity to build it arose after he mentioned it to Caryn Silverman, a former congregation president. She and her husband, Gary, agreed to help fund the venture, the rabbi said.

“Our synagogue is in a beautiful, natural environment,” said Weinblatt. “And it felt important to take advantage of the beautiful space that we have, and to be able to both use the indoors and the outdoors for our programs and activities.”

The sports court was built between the synagogue building and its playground, which was renovated and expanded a few years ago. The court’s functions have expanded beyond basketball. Weinblatt noted that gaga, an Israeli variation on dodgeball, is popular among younger congregants.

“Pickleball is an evolving sport among our members,” said Scott Katz, the congregation’s executive director. “So it was also built with that in mind.” A recent “explosion of interest” in the racquet-based sport caused the congregation to make the sports court into a multipurpose area, Katz said.

“Gaga appeals to our grade school-aged students,” said Weinblatt. “The fact that [the Sports Court] can be used as a basketball court appeals to those who are in high school or above, and pickleball is a draw for adults. I felt that this should be a court for all ages.”

Construction on the court went smoothly, according to Weinblatt. Weinblatt said that some of the people most invested in the process were nursery school students at the Greenzaid Early Childhood Center.

“Our nursery school children were fascinated, and came outside almost every day to watch the court being built,” he said. “They would sit and watch, and a couple of times I would sit with them and watch. I subsequently read them a book that I used to read to my kids, called ‘How They Build It,’ about construction and we would talk about how things were built.”

Future plans for the sports court include programs, particularly during the spring and summer.

“Individuals will be able to use it for programming, but our religious school and early childhood center will also be making use of the court,” said Katz. “We plan to implement it into as many programming opportunities as possible, and encourage congregants to come to the synagogue for recreation in addition to all the other needs we fulfill.”

“There’s so many different ways in which we can celebrate people being together and encourage people to view the synagogue and Judaism as a natural, integral part of their lives,” added Weinblatt. “We want to express our being part of a Jewish community in a positive way.” ■

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