What gives a 123-pound female yeshiva high school freshman the strength to lift 240 pounds? What interests a young, female, award-winning Philadelphia producer to spend Shabbatot and Yomim Tovim in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, bonding with an Orthodox family? For both as well as the Kutin family and the Supergirl documentary team the answer is “to get the message out to the community not to be afraid to put yourself out there, break barriers and pursue your dreams.”
After proud mom Neshama shared the story of her daughter Naomi and son Ari with Fox News in 2010, various talk shows in California and New York and the Steve Harvey show in Chicago, a young team of filmmakers headed by Jessie Auritt took an interest in the story of a 14-year-old Orthodox girl who is breaking powerlifting records while pursuing a traditional teenage life.
Auritt, who serves as director, producer and editor of the soon-to-be-released documentary, Supergirl, gathered a talented crew of young co-producers and editors, cinematographers, composers and music producers, who for the past three years have been documenting Naomi and the Kutins in many areas of their lives. Auritt has virtually become part of the family and has become familiar with their Orthodox way of life through numerous visits to their home for interviews and tapings. She and her crew have recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to assist with the final costs of the documentary, which hopefully will be completed by January, 2017. The monies raised by the campaign will help defray the costs of the music, legal and licensing fees, mixing of sound and color, applications to film festivals and readying the film for the premiere.
Naomi Kutin attends Ma’ayanot High School in Teaneck, where she is a serious, albeit shy, student who has not missed more than three days of instruction this whole academic year. On several Sundays each year, she and her family, consisting of father Ed, himself a powerlifter; Neshama, a holistic health coach and powerlifter brother Ari, a student at Ben Porat Yosef Yeshiva in Paramus, load their equipment into the car and head for meets within driving distance of their home. Naomi competes in adult categories with women in her weight class regardless of their age. Since she began serious competitions at age 9, she has set many youth and adult records.
What makes Naomi’s story so special is that the journey to this point has been bumpy for her as well as her most supportive family. Naomi’s parents were both previously married and divorced with three adult children between them. Neshama was in the last legs of her conversion process to Judaism when she met Ed. Her condition for marrying him was that they go “the whole way” in their observance, which was a new direction for Ed, who had been involved in weightlifting for 20 years at that point, having begun as a student at MIT, and would now have to forego the Saturday meets. But forego them he did. After a few false starts, the Kutins were blessed with two children born within 18 months of each other. For Neshama, these children are a “direct blessing from Hashem for which I am grateful every minute of every day.”
Determined to keep their family healthy, the Kutins enrolled their 8-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son in karate classes. It soon became evident that Naomi’s strength far exceeded that of any young child or for that matter most adults. Naomi catapulted into breaking world records at the tender age of 9 and forward. A major bump in the road slowed her progress when in seventh and eighth grades, while attending Yeshivat Noam in Paramus, she was forced to miss months of schooling as doctors found masses in her brain that caused her great pain. Naomi kept up with her studies through the admirable efforts of Principal Rabbi Chaim Hagler and Assistant Principal Becky Troodler and her concerned classmates who “wheeled her from room to room” via Skype to her various classes. During these difficult times it was her powerlifting that gave her the most comfort and sustainability. Naomi was able to graduate from Noam and was accepted to Ma’ayanot High School where she continues to be “one of the girls,” capably carrying on her studies. Principal Rivkah Kahan and Guidance Counselor Dr. Rayzel Yaish are fully aware of her “separate” life and are available to assist her. So far she has missed only three days in October when the family attended an out-of-town meet.
Auritt is very excited about Supergirl, a documentary that she feels will serve as an inspiration to so many on so many different levels. The film follows Naomi’s coming-of-age journey into her early teens, as she fights to hold on to her title. Along with the universal struggles of adolescence, Naomi is faced with religious obligations, cyberbullying and serious health issues that jeopardize her ability to continue powerlifting. Can she still be “Supergirl” if she can no longer break world records? Ultimately, as she grows up, she must learn to accept herself and discover that her true strength is not in her muscles but in her heart.
To learn more about the Kickstarter campaign for .
By Pearl Markovitz