The World’s first Weightlifting Champion Was a Proud Jew

The early Zionist theorist Max Nordau spoke often of Muskeljudentum—a muscular Jewry that would demolish the stereotype of the effete, scholarly Jew by excelling at conventionally manly activities. Born in London in 1851, Edward Lawrence Levy became just such a Jew before Nordau ever coined the phrase. Orphaned at the age of six, Levy began his unusual career working at the Birmingham Hebrew School. Zack Rothbart writes:

While [in Birmingham], he would, among other things, found the city’s first Jewish Amateur Dramatic Club in 1872, followed by the Alliance Literary and Debating Society—“somewhat avant-garde in admitting ladies” as well as in having both Jewish and non-Jewish members. While remaining active in the Jewish community, in 1875 he went on to establish and run the Birmingham Jewish Collegiate School. When non-Jewish students enrolled, he renamed it the less parochial “Denbigh Lodge Collegiate School,” proud not only of its academic [standards], but also of its “glorious mixture of the best Jewish lads with similar Christian school fellows.”

Besides running a school, teaching, attending and criticizing theater performances, writing, and founding and serving as an active member in numerous other organizations, Levy developed a growing interest in gymnastics and physical fitness as the “strongman boom” peaked and he approached his fortieth birthday in 1891. That year, Levy won the first-ever British Amateur Weightlifting Championship.

Just two months later, he won the first World Weightlifting Competition, beating out strongmen from Germany, Austria, Italy, and elsewhere and officially becoming the first-ever international weightlifting champion. He later recalled, “There is one great feature of the two championships I won which I cannot refrain from referring to, and that is the great joy I felt as a Jew at winning these events.” From 1891 to 1894 he would go on to set no less than fourteen world records.

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More about: British Jewry, Jewish history, Max Nordau, Sports

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror