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‘Supergirl’ Naomi Kutin Powerlifts Her Way to the Big Screen

New Jersey native Naomi Kutin, 14, once deadlifted 225 percent of her body weight. But she doesn’t lift on Shabbos.

Jonathan Zalman
November 03, 2016

There is something special about watching Naomi Kutin, a Fairlawn, New Jersey, native, practice her craft: powerlifting. Here she is at 10 years old in 2012, setting a personal record by deadlifting 209 lbs, or about 225 percent of her body weight. That same year she also broke the world record for raw squats in the 97 lbs. division. All before she was a teenager, let alone a bat mitzvah. Take a look for yourself:

“Because I’m Jewish I cannot lift on Shabbos,” Kutin, who is Modern Orthodox, told The Forward in 2012.

“Like everything else,” Ed, Naomi’s father, told The Jewish Press, “it is really about balancing our observant lifestyle.”

“[Shabbos is] when all the girls my age will lift. Sometimes there are contests that go on Sundays so I can meet the girls that are lifting, but sometimes it’s kind of annoying that…I can’t lift with them.”

When Naomi was 8 years old, her parents brought her to her first meet, in Clearfield, Pa. She lifted 148 pounds, setting her first national record. Today, her purple-painted bedroom is dotted with medals; a shelf of trophies overflows onto a pile of stuffed animals.

“My husband and I figured she would last about six months before she lost interest,” Neshama Kutin told The Jewish Press. “Lo and behold, that wasn’t the case.”

Supergirl, a new documentary by director Jessee Auritt, follows Naomi’s life from the age of 11 to 14. Here’s the director on the motivation behind her film (which was funded partially via Kickstarter), from My Jewish Learning:

[W]hat fascinated me more than the fact that this little girl had superhuman strength, was the fact that she was even powerlifting at all. To me, “Orthodox Jewish girl powerlifter” was an oxymoron and frankly unfathomable. While I’m not a weightlifter, I am Jewish, although not Orthodox. From my knowledge of Jewish law, I didn’t understand how an Orthodox Jewish girl could be competing in the male-dominated sport of powerlifting, particularly because of the dress code requirements (powerlifters must wear a formfitting wrestling singlet when competing). While I didn’t quite comprehend how this was possible, I found it awe-inspiring and was compelled to dig deeper and explore what life actually looked like for this barrier-breaking young girl.

Supergirl is coming this month to DOC NYC and the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival.

Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.