Devra Markowitz, program director of Flipping Forward Gymnastics, has put together the first-ever competitive girls gymnastics team in northern New Jersey catering to an observant Jewish clientele. On February 12, the team competed in Orangeburg, New York, at the Jewish Gymnastics League’s Snowflake Invitational Meet, comprised of teams of religious girls from Monsey, the Five Towns, Baltimore, Miami, Cleveland and, now, northern New Jersey.
Every member of Flipping Forward’s team, which includes Emma Degen, Baila Deutsch, Racheli Einhorn, Ariella Gold, Racheli Kaplan, Maayan Kapustin, Bracha Klein, Malky Kowalsky, Leah Perlowitz, Nechama Stein and Chana Werblowsky, won at least one medal, many winning first-place medals for their individual bar, beam and floor routines. In total, the Flipping Forward team won 31 medals and 10 trophies, including a first place overall for the team, in a remarkable first showing.
Flipping Forward opened in 2010 in order to provide girls ages 4-12, on all levels, a chance to participate in gymnastics classes focused on skill building. Classes are held both in the Teaneck area and Passaic/Clifton, and have begun to attract girls from West Orange, Hillside and Springfield as well. As the vast majority of gymnastics programs in the area do not have classes on Sundays, Flipping Forward has become the go-to place for observant beginner to advanced gymnasts.
Markowitz says with pride. “My program, Flipping Forward, is the first to offer gymnastics to Orthodox girls in northern New Jersey.”
Markowitz has been involved with gymnastics since she was a young child. She has taught gymnastics at Bruriah High School and has been the gymnastics instructor for Camp Summer Playland in Passaic for the past six years.
The Jewish Gymnastics League is filling a real need in the Jewish community. Before the league was formed a little over a year ago, a girl could take gymnastics lessons and, if she had talent, all she could do was continue with her lessons. Professional meets were, for many, out of the question, because they happened mainly on Shabbat and have coed audiences. This league has given talented frum gymnasts a chance to compete in a way that is comfortable for them in many ways. It should be noted that only certified judges are hired to judge the competitions, adding a level of professionalism to the events. The Jewish Gymnastics League runs competitions bi-annually.
“It’s an exciting time now because of The Jewish Gymnastics League,” says Markowitz. “Now gymnastics can become more than a hobby for frum girls. It provides an amazing opportunity for talented girls in my recreational classes to aspire to.”
Markowitz is quick to point out that gymnastics is not just about competing. “Gymnastics and extra-curricular activities give children that extra self-confidence that they might not be able to find in school. I’ve had mothers come to me and say, ‘My daughter has a newfound confidence. She may not be the best student, her siblings may do better than her in school, but now she feels she’s great at something.’”
Markowitz noted that before the competition, she was concerned that the “girls are at a disadvantage because they’ve never competed. All of the other teams have competed at least once, some twice before.” At the time, they had modest hopes that maybe someone on the team would place or one of the girls would win first-place in a particular area, but they never imagined the level of success they ultimately achieved.
At the competition, after they had completed their routines, the girls of Flipping Forward sat on mats as they awaited the results. Suddenly, names started to be called out. With open mouths and hands over their faces, the northern New Jersey team started to collect their medals and trophies, 41 in total. Though they couldn’t have predicted their success, it was certainly well earned. Perhaps the old adage applies, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice. Practice. Practice.”
For more information about Flipping Forward, visit www.flippingforward.com.
By Alissa Joseph