Jesse Orenshein is just old enough to drink, and with his success in the last two months, this nice Jewish boy from Los Angeles certainly deserves a l’chaim or two.
Last week, the 21-year-old recent college graduate appeared on NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior,” smashing the difficult obstacle course, and a few stereotypes along the way. He made his way through most of the course before falling off one of the giant glass cubes towards the end.
But one win he did have? He helped shatter a stereotype. “I wanted to promote Judaism as I see it and people might not perceive us as being able to do something like that,” Orenshein told The Jewish Week by phone. “I saw this as a challenge and it was right up my alley.”
His strong support team of friends and relatives cheered along in the audience wearing T-shirts that read “Mazal Tough” and holding signs that said “Jesse is single.”
How did Orenshein prepare for the competition? He’s been doing one-handed push-ups since he was seven. In the lead up to the competition he trained daily; boxing, swimming, rock-climbing and running. He eats healthy, but says he will cheat on occasion.
“Ice cream is my weakness,” he said. “Double fudge brownie. But I work out every single day.”
Orenshein and his family are members of Young Israel of Century City, but after prayers on Saturday, he walks over to Congregation Mogen David, where he acts as youth director. Just last month he published a children’s book, “The Boy Who Owned a Candy Store,” (available on Amazon) which teaches kids about the need for moderation in life to maintain a balanced lifestyle.
“When I started reading to kids at my shul, I really didn’t think there were enough rhyming children’s books that taught a good moral lesson and were adventurous,” he said, explaining the catalyst for his book.
Since his appearance on NBC, he’s been getting a lot of praise from his community and he’s inspired many of the children in his kid’s program to become ninja warriors themselves.
During the taping, one of the commentators joked that ladies should ‘swipe right’ if they like him. “This dude’s got muscles and looks like a lot of fun,” the announcer said.
And apparently they did. Orenshein says he’s received a deluge of messages from women asking him out. “It’s a strange bunch that’s willing to reach out to you on Facebook and be very forward,” he said.
But he’ll have to be a heartbreaker. Though he was single at the time the show was taped, he now has a girlfriend.
“I fell in love her when I met her when I was 13 at an NCSY shabbaton,” he said. “We were going around to everybody asking them which musical artist was better. It was like Justin Bieber and someone else. We went to every single group of people… just the two of us. I was in love with her forever. She found out and just wanted to be friends. But now, she came to her senses.”
Orenshein recently graduated from California State University Northridge, with a bachelor’s degree in screenwriting. So with his TV appearance, his book, his girlfriend and finishing school, he’s been getting a lot of mazal tovs.
“But I have no idea which one they are talking about,” he laughed.
If it seems hard to believe that a 21-year-old has already published a children’s book and been on TV, Orenshein isn’t slowing down any time soon. Asked about his goals for the future he didn’t hesitate.
“Everything in my life is geared to being the best future husband and father that I can be,” he said. “Ultimately, I would like to write animated feature films.”
With a TV appearance already under his belt, Orenshein, hopes to get involved in Hollywood as well. He’s already written several comedy screenplays and has been mentored by Jeremy Garelick. (Garelick is the screenwriter of “The Break-Up” and wrote and directed “The Wedding Ringer”).
Does Orenshein attribute his good fortune to muscle or mazel?
“I think everything comes from God,” he said. “But I always have a strong work ethic. I beat myself up if I ever waste time.”