1000 Pull-Ups for Friendship Circle

Homegrown Attorney Takes on Extreme Challenge for Charity

Jonathan Cohen is no stranger to extreme physical challenges. He’s plunged into cold water in the middle of winter, done 1,018 pushups in a single hour and ran the 4x4x48 challenge (4 miles, every four hours, for 48 hours). He’s constantly pushing himself out of his comfort zone, looking for his own threshold. Each feat he undertakes benefits an issue or organization of particular import to him.

On Sunday, March 12, Cohen, 33, will attempt to complete 1018 pull-ups to benefit Friendship Circle and LifeTown. The event will take place at LifeTown beginning at 9:30am. Cohen expects the effort to take about three hours. He will kick off the morning with a short presentation for the teen volunteers and participants that he hopes will send a message while creating some fun.

“Everyone is so much more capable than they realize,” said Cohen. “If you can do something outside the bounds of your skill set, the possibilities are endless.”

The pull-up challenge marks the first time that Cohen is taking on his challenge in a public space – usually he films himself at home and uses social media, livestreaming in real time. If he has some anxiety, he’s not letting it show. “I’ve done things like this before. I know I can do it. If I set a realistic goal, I refuse to believe I can’t accomplish something.” 

It’s a particularly appropriate message for the Friendship Circle audience. “Everything we do is about understanding that we are all capable of so much more than we think– and that with just a little encouragement, we can all be amazing,” said Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum, CEO of Friendship Circle and LifeTown.

Doing a pull-up challenge for Friendship Circle has particular significance for Cohen, 33, a Livingston native who now lives in Manhattan with his wife, Maya. Friendship Circle is where Cohen started his lifelong passion for volunteering at the age of 17. “This organization taught me what it means to volunteer and to feel the impact of your actions in real time,” he said.

Cohen’s first exposure to extreme physical challenges came with a tour of duty with the Israel Defense Forces between high school and college. He served in a military combat unit, and the experience highlighted for him the mind-body connection, something he continues to explore and leverage.

While in Israel, he put his Friendship Circle experience to good use, volunteering with adults with disabilities as well as with children with special needs. “It’s just my way of giving back and not taking anything for granted,” he said. He grew up in a home where gratitude was an essential message that he internalized. “The benefit of being a good person is being a good person,” he said.

An attorney who works for PNY Technologies, Cohen continues to be fascinated by those who push boundaries, find the intersection between personal and professional growth, and get stronger physically and mentally. He even has his own podcast, “Inside the Inspired,” analyzing what it takes to be successful. 

For now, he’s busy preparing his body and his mind for 1018 pull-ups in front of an audience, which will work out to 5 pull-ups per minute with a short break in between intervals. The additional 18 pull-ups stand for life, and as he said, “In the end, that’s the mission–making life better for everyone and building not just a better body or a better organization, but a better society.”

For more info and to donate visit wecare.fcnj.com/campaigns/pullup.

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