Up, Up, and Oy Vey!

Up, Up, and Oy Vey!

Up, Up, and Oy Vey!

It may not be true in all cases, but it’s a pretty good rule of thumb. If the word “man” appears at the end of someone’s name you can draw one of two conclusions: A) They’re Jewish, as in Goldman, Feldman, or Lipman; or B) They’re a superhero, as in Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man. – Zeddy Lawrence, television writer, Dream Team (pg. 15)

Up, Up, and Oy Vey! How Jewish History, Culture, and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero by Simcha Weinstein was a very unique book. Weinstein set out to show the connection that exists between Jewish history and traditions with the creation and development of comic book superheros. Weinstein demonstrates in the book how many of the creators of the first superheros were Jewish. He shows how they consciously and unconsciously drew upon Jewish history, tradition, scripture, religion, the Talmud, and Kabalism.

The book covers the following:

  • Superman – integrity
  • Batman and the Spirit – justice
  • Captain America – patriotism
  • Justice League – teamwork
  • Fantastic Four – family values
  • Hulk – anger
  • Spider-Man – responsibility and redemption
  • X-Men – anti-Semitism and reconciliation (pg. 17)

A couple of examples are:

The author draws parallels between Superman and Moses.

For example, Superman’s journey closely reflects the story of Moses. Like the people of Krypton who faced annihilation, the Jews of biblical Egypt faced the murder of all their male offspring. To ensure her son’s survival, Jochebed places Moses in a reed basket and sets him afloat on the Nile. Her desperate decision is clearly echoed by Superman’s father, Jor-El, who launches the little rocket ship containing his son into outer space.

Moses and Superman are eventually discovered and raised in foreign cultures. Baby Moses is found by Basya, the daughter of Pharaoh, and raised in the royal palace. Superman is found by Jonathan and Martha Kent in a midwestern cornfield and given the name Clark. From the onset, both Basya and the Kents realize that these foundling boys are extraordinary. (pg. 26)

The Hulk and the Golem is interesting also.

A Jewish alter ego of the Hulk can be found in the Golem, Judaism’s own monster-hero. Frankenstein author Mary Shelley was inspired by the Jewish legend to invent her famous monster, who, like the Hulk and the Golem, is the result of hubristic man-made engineering. While many superheroes bear a superficial resemblance to the Golem, the Hulk truly personifies this mythical being; he is a powerful if extremely unpredictable protector, the result of an experiment gone horribly wrong. (pg. 86)

In the conclusion, Weinstein draws out four spiritual lessons from comic book superheroes:

  1. In the end, good will prevail.
  2. Average people have mights potential.
  3. It is never too late.
  4. You can run, but you cannot hide – from yourself. (pg. 124-126)


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