For many people, their lives are defined by three major categories: family, faith, and fitness. Nowhere is belief and dedication to fitness more apparent than in those who choose to become a bodybuilder and in turn, have an important impact on not only on their personal lives but on the lives of countless others.
In Hebrew, the word for philanthropy and charity is known as tzedakah. This is a form of social justice where the donor benefits from being able to give as much or even more than the recipients. More than just a financial donation, the concept of tzedakah helps to build trusting relationships and also includes contributions made in time, effort, as well as insight.
Because of this concept, we wanted to spotlight some prominent Jewish people who are not only known for being successful bodybuilders, but for what they were also able to provide others around them and help them reach their own fitness goals.
If you’re ready, let’s get started.
For Jake Steinfeld, he journey through the world of bodybuilding began with a simple trip to the movies with his grandmother. At a movie theater in New York, Jake went to see “Pumping Iron” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger but kept wondering where the then Mr. Olympia champion was and his excitement at meeting his personal hero.
After the movie, Schwarzenegger was found in the theater lobby greeting and talking to other moviegoers and shook Steinfeld’s hand. Too nervous to ask his personal hero a question, his no-nonsense grandma took him over and let Schwarzenegger know that Jake had a question. His question? What he did for his calves, which Schwarzenegger happily answered.
These days, Steinfeld is a fitness personality himself. His famous television series “Body by Jake” and “Big Brother Jake” have been seen by millions of people all over the world. After leaving college, Jake headed to California and eventually made his way playing one of the Incredible Hulks on the Universal Studios Tour.
Through the friend of a friend, Jake’s personal training business was created. Working with some of the biggest stars in Hollywood, Jake’s business flourished and led him to be one of the most sought-after personal trainers in the world. The only regret he has is that his grandmother died before she could see how successful he has become.
“She used to shoot hoops with us,” he says. “She was a character. She’d bring pizza over on Yom Kippur.” Somewhere she’s smiling at her shy grandson.
When the history of bodybuilding is talked about, the first name that almost always comes up is that of Joe Weider. Born in 1919, Joe Weider was a fitness icon, a nutrition business pioneer, and to many, most importantly, a magazine publisher which he started with “Your Physique” in 1940.
Born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Joe was a bit of a scrawny kid and could be the target of bullies. So when a magazine about muscles was spotted in a bookstore, the flame grew when he read that magazine over and over again. The drive to explore the concept of bodybuilding led to some inventive ways to get the things he needed when he couldn’t afford them.
While he purchased a set of adjustable weights on layaway, a rail yard worker welded flywheels to an axel so he could exercise with a 75-pound bar. While his passion grew, in the middle of the night at his mom’s kitchen table, draped with a sheet over him, the magazine that started as Your Physique began in earnest with all of the articles and illustrations were done by Weider himself.
Throughout his career, as a Jewish immigrant who was well accustomed to the bigotry was determined to fight the hatred that others could have toward another person. One of these groundbreaking legacies was the colorblind treatment of non-white athletes who competed in the IFBB. It is this treatment of others and his dedication to the sport of bodybuilding that is Weider’s legacy. Unfortunately, Joe Weider passed away in 2013
In California, those who are serious about bodybuilding know that there is really only one place to go to get a great workout in and that’s at Muscle Beach when he was a teenager. Joe Gold headed there to continue his pursuit of bodybuilding.
Born in1922, the passion for bodybuilding started young at the age of 12, when he saw his sister-in-law using a broom handle with a filled bucket at each end to strengthen her arms. This led to Joe and his brother, Robert to start building their own bodybuilding equipment using scrap metal that they got from Robert’s scrap yard.
His professional bodybuilding career took him all over the country as part of Mae West’s revue with a group of other musclemen that he had auditioned with. This led to his appearance as an extra in two of the most epic movies to be released, The Ten Commandments and Around the World in 80 Days, both in 1956.
Less than ten years later, the historic landmark for bodybuilders in Venice, California was opened. Aptly names Gold’s Gym became the place to go and workout despite the dirty fixtures. Gold was known for the encouragement that he personally offered the trainers that came to his establishment, even if they came from Joe sarcastically as he took jabs at their faults.
One of the most famous clients at his gym was Arnold Schwarzenegger, who helped to make Gold’s Gym a household name when it was used as a setting seen in the 1977 movie Pumping Iron, which helped to popularize bodybuilding. While he sold Gold’s Gym in 1970, the brand has continued to grow, now having over 700 locations worldwide. In 1977, Gold decided to launch a new weightlifting gym and named it World’s Gym.
With over 200 locations in over 20 countries, World’s Gym has become one of the best know gyms in the world. Joe Gold owned and operated World’s Gym until his death in 2004.
If you have more to share If so, please consider contributing to Jewish In Tampa Bay by submitting your own post here.