Gabe Gordon and Caleb Robbins. Courtesy of FJA
Gabe Gordon and Caleb Robbins. Courtesy of FJA

Frankel Jewish Academy offers a weight training class led by Rabbi Jeremy Yoskowitz.

Shmirat haguf, Hebrew for “caring for the body,” is an important act for all — but taking care of one’s body early on in life? Even more so.

At West Bloomfield’s Frankel Jewish Academy (FJA), students are caring for their bodies — hitting the gym while also hitting the books.

For four years now, FJA has offered a unique elective course: a weight training class. The class is led by Rabbi Jeremy Yoskowitz, who also teaches several Judaic studies courses at FJA.

Along with having a master’s degree in Jewish education, Yoskowitz trained as an athletic trainer in college and has always been into weight training and physical fitness.

The weight training class has increased in popularity since its inception, Yoskowitz says, with some students training with him for all four years of high school. The class takes place three times a week. Yoskowitz, who began lifting weights in high school himself, says it’s amazing seeing the students’ growth.

“There’s been fantastic research relating to mental health and how weight training and seeing those gains can be a really positive thing for young people’s development, and I want to latch on to that,” Yoskowitz said. “We not only talk about the safe way to lift weights and having good form and the standard weight training, but also about eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of rest and caring for our whole selves.”

Rabbi Jeremy Yoskowitz and Caleb Robbins.
Rabbi Jeremy Yoskowitz and Caleb Robbins. FJA

That line of thinking connects with Yoskowitz’s Judaic studies courses, often focusing on spiritual growth and development. Educating the whole student by paying attention to both their physical and spiritual needs is crucial, Yoskowitz says.

“You can’t neglect the physical for the spiritual or vice versa. These things have to be done together,” he said. “We work with our students and their families about ways in which they can enrich their own selves, how they can become not just better learners, but the best version of themselves.”

When the JCC health club shut down, a separate training room was opened in the JCC’s Edward & Shirley Rosenberg Recreation Center, where the weight training takes place.

Yoskowitz works with students on building personalized workout plans for their individual goals, adjusted every month based on their progress.

Students take advantage of what the course offers for many different reasons — some to improve their performance for their sports teams, some to become healthier and some simply for fun. This semester, there are about two dozen students across two sections for Yoskowitz’s weight training classes.

With young people being put under more and more stress, Yoksowitz’s weight- training curriculum stresses the idea that along with working hard in the gym and in school, students have to make time for themselves outside of that.

Gabe Gordon takes some coaching from Rabbi Jeremy Yoskowitz.
Gabe Gordon takes some coaching from Rabbi Jeremy Yoskowitz. FJA

“I just want the students to be able to become stronger, happier, healthier people,” Yoskowitz said. “The more you build positive habits, the more you build a good discipline for yourself, the better your options are for translating those things to different aspects of your life.”

FJA seniors Gabriel Gordon and Caleb Robbins have both had Judaic studies classes with Rabbi Yoskowitz along with weight training with him for two years. Both have had positive experiences.

“As much as I love high school, it’s extremely stressful, and just having the ability to exercise three times a week in that class alone really helps with the stress and takes a lot off,” Gordon said. “Everyone starts with one goal, and it’s cool seeing your progression through a semester and through the year, and where you started and where you end up.”

Gordon and Robbins are both student-athletes at FJA, playing tennis, basketball and baseball.

“As a three-sport athlete, one thing I really wanted to work on was improving my hitting power and some of my pitching velocity,” Robbins said. “In like a day or two, Rabbi Yoskowitz created a plan. And that’s a plan I’ll probably do for the rest of my life.”

Gordon and Robbins agree that weight training has set them on a path of creating positive habits they’ll hold onto for the rest of their lives.

“This class gets you in a rhythm, and whether it’s working out or for a job or schoolwork, being consistent in life is important,” Gordon said. “This class helps you prepare not only for exercising, but for everything in life.”

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