‘Muscular Judaism’: Athletes compete for unofficial title of world’s strongest Jew

‘Muscular Judaism’: Athletes compete for unofficial title of world’s strongest Jew

Bringing weightlifting back to the Maccabiah Games after over 3 decades, competitors from around the globe — amateurs and pros — hoist barbells in staggering shows of strength

It was in 1898 at the Second Zionist Congress that early Zionist leader Max Nordau declared: “We must think of creating once again a Jewry of muscles.”

So Nordau’s spirit was surely smiling down on Jerusalem’s YMCA as Jews from around the world, men and women, gathered to show off that muscular Jewry with a weightlifting competition in the Maccabiah Games, which came to a close last week.

This was the first time in 33 years that weightlifting had been a part of the Maccabiah Games, having been brought back by popular demand.

Over the course of two days, the 17 women and 21 men who took part in the competition heaved increasingly heavy barbells up over their heads in two types of strictly choreographed lifts: the snatch and the clean-and-jerk.

In the former, lifters take hold of the barbell in a squatting position, then fling it up high over their heads, locking their arms once the barbell is up in the air and then rising into a standing position.

The clean-and-jerk is the more intricate of the two lifts. In it, the lifter squats down and takes hold of the barbell. They then flip their wrists back, positioning the bar on the top of their chest and rise into a standing position. In one synchronized movement — the jerk — they thrust the barbell up over their head and jump into the air, landing with one foot slightly forward and one leg back. Keeping the bar above their head, they then move their feet to be parallel to one another.

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