by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
Given our ongoing posts about yoga (it’s not kosher), a reader and fellow blogger asked…
Forget yoga! The latest thing for orthodox Jewish women is Zumba. You may not have heard of it, but it's everywhere in Australia and the US. Rebetzins, school teachers, mothers, daughters.... all going to Zumba nights. Facebook Rebetzins are asking friends to come and join them for a Zumba night.
Please check, is Zumba kosher?
Zumba is a high intensity dance program being used as an exercise program. It uses Latin style high beat high speed salsa music to getting and keeping one moving and keeping it physically exciting. The dance moves are simple Latin salsa style which focus on frequent body movements, gyrations and “sexy” body moves.
Zumba is practiced mostly by women, over 90% of Zumba participants are women.
So is Zumba kosher?
Zumba does not involve any meditations, breathing exercises, focusing or thought patterns. At it’s movement rate there certainly wouldn’t be time for it.
Zumba does not involve any religious symbols or symbolism. No powers of any sort are being addressed.
As anyone who’s been to a chassidic Jewish wedding knows, vigorous dance sessions certainly can make great aerobic exercise. There is no inherent problem with dancing or vigorous dancing.
However, certain music beats in combination with certain tones do lead to strong physical-oriented body responses. Clubs don’t play strong beat music just because people like it, people like it because it brings certain bodily responses. Latin salsa music is exactly in this space, which is one of the things that makes Zumba enjoyable (it’s exercise with a ‘zing’ feeling).
So Zumba as is would not be appropriate for a religious Jewish crowd.
Can it be kashered (made kosher)?
Yes and it should be pretty easy. There is plenty of fast beat Jewish music (particularly modern Jewish wedding music and chassidic music) which can be substituted for the salsa music, and plenty of fast paced dance steps that can be used instead of gyration oriented dancing (and there are some Zumba routines, or parts of them, that are not problematic and can be used).
And because it’s dance routines, exercise sessions would need to be gender segregated (which was indicated in the original question).
So with a little modification, Zumba can be kosher. Nor does this have the type of spiritual problems that would require a review by a rav or halachic expert.
So, before you Jew-Zumba make sure you’re not attending something that is just a gender segregated Latin style Zumba. But if the Rebbitzen says she’s got a Jewish Zumba with a Jewish beat and Jewish dance steps, enjoy your Zumba in good health and for good health!