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:
The World’s first Weightlifting Champion Was a Proud Jew
At America’s Best Universities, Biblical Religion Is a Curiosity, if Not a Menace
At the time of Columbia University’s founding in 1784, notes Meir Soloviechik, the leader of the local synagogue, Gershom Mendes Seixas, was made a member of its board of regents. A Jewish student even gave a commencement address, composed by Seixas, in Hebrew. In the 20th century, Columbia attracted numerous Jews with the relaxation of quotas, and was the first secular university to create a chair in Jewish history. Barnard College, Columbia’s all-women’s school, was itself founded by a Jewish woman, and today has a large number of Orthodox Jewish students.