June 25, 2024
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June 25, 2024
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Fitness, Self-Care and Spirituality at AABJ&D

The new AABJ&D Sisterhood board was installed on Monday evening at their annual spring fling with a buffet dinner catered by Reuben’s Glatt Spot of West Orange.

Guest speaker Marla Rottenstreich wowed the crowd with her special mix of self-care and Jewish spirituality. Rottenstreich, it seems, is licensed in every form of fitness training you have heard of, and several more you haven’t. And she brought with her the energy to match.

“I had a classic ‘Jersey-Girl’ upbringing,” Rottenstreich told the women in attendance. “But I didn’t grow up with any Jews.”

She described a childhood and young adulthood in which she was always searching—for something, somewhere. She sought spiritual enlightenment in any outlet she came across, and while she sometimes found it, it never stuck.

By the time she was 18 years old, she was already a professional dancer. She traveled around the world and appeared in popular 90s music videos. (She would not divulge which ones, saying she was not exactly dressed appropriately in them.) The travel provided her with unique opportunities to explore new cultures and seek out spiritual fulfillment.

Rottenstreich traveled to India with her dance troupe and ended up in an ashram, an Indian religious retreat or monastery. She ended up staying seven months. “I thought I found the answers to the big questions I was always asking,” she said.

One night, Rottenstreich had a dream about an Orthodox rabbi. (“I had never met a rabbi before.”) But the following day, out in Bombay, she saw an Orthodox rabbi. She knew it must be a message, but she wasn’t sure what it meant. “Keep your eyes open to whatever signs you encounter,” she advised.

After a conversation with the rabbi, Rottenstreich was inspired to go to Israel, a place she had never been before. “A freight train of spiritual energy barreled through me the moment I set foot in Israel,” Rottenstreich said. And thus began her journey as a ba’al teshuva.

While she gave up being a professional dancer many years ago, Rottenstreich has pivoted towards using her love of fitness for other purposes. Today, she owns Mekor Fitness LLC, a Central New Jersey women’s fitness and wellness company. “The meaning of life is to give life meaning,” she quoted Viktor Frankel. She works in groups and one-on-one to help women achieve their goals and become the best versions of themselves. “I help women see movement as medicine, dance as spirituality. Your body is a vessel for your soul.”

When the pandemic hit and all of her in-person offerings were no longer viable, she pivoted once again. She moved her classes online and grew a following of women from all over the world and all walks of life. Her 20-20-20 program offers 20 days of 20-minute fitness videos (“with built-in rest days on Saturdays”) for $20.

“I learned from my mother—a strong, Jewish woman—that women can do anything. Baby steps lead to long-term success. Habit is everything.”

By Talia Liben Yarmush

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