02 March 2011

Super Jewish!

I bet it has never occurred to you that Superman was created from Jewish beliefs and culture. Not only was it made with these intentions, but made by Jewish men as well. These two Jewish men who created the character Superman were Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Simcha Weinstein is informing us that Superman as well as other superheroes come from Jewish beliefs in his book Up, Up, and Oy Vey: How Jewish History, Culture, and Values Shaped The Comic Book Superhero. Weinstein uses the Bible and Nazi Germany to explain to the reader how the Superman comics have ties to Jewish culture.

Superman can first be identified with Jewish culture through the Bible. The Bible is a main focus in the Jewish religion, so there is no surprise that Siegel and Shuster relate Superman's personality to heroic figures in the Bible such as Moses and David. The connection between Superman and these biblical figures is that they all yield courage at one time or another, and have supernatural powers to serve their people. When European Jewish immigrants first came to the United States, they brought these biblical stories with them and passed them down to their children.

Superman's childhood is also related to the way Jews were treated in Nazi Germany during World War II. In 1939, Hitler persecuted Jews horribly in Germany. Jews could not hold government jobs or even own radios. Jewish parents would send their children to England to seek safety. Superman's childhood has the same background as these Jewish youth. Superman was sent away from Krypton to avoid the mass destruction of his native planet. Just like these Jewish parents, Superman's parents made the choice to send him away to avoid death.

When European Jews first came to America in the early 1900's, they were persecuted by many. It was hard to get a job at this time if you were a Jew. This was when Jewish children and teenagers began creating supernatural characters who came to protect the innocent and fight evil. Siegel and Shuster were just two of many Jewish teens who lived in America at this time. With them included the creators of Batman (Bob Kane and Bill Finger), and many other Jewish comic artists who migrated to America.

With all these Jewish creators of comics, comics became a multi-million dollar business. The public began to accept comics, and the comic industry grew. Comics were eventually studied within the highest levels of academia, and not just seen as cheap child's play. 2002 proved to be a good year for comics. In 2002, actor Nicholas Cage sold his comic collection for $1.68 million. This same year, the New York City Comic Museum released C.O.M.I.C.S. (Challenging Objective Minds: an Instructional Comic book Series), which was a curriculum for k-12 used in many schools. These can be considered milestones that show the progression comics have had.

I do agree with Weinstein's belief that superheroes come from Jewish culture. Weinstein gives great examples that explain the code behind the Superman comic. From showing how Superman's personality is related to biblical characters, to relating Superman's childhood to those children from Nazi German, it is hard to argue Weinstein's claim. The fact that many famous comic artists are Jewish helps his claim. I think the main reason comics such as Superman, that are written by people of Jewish ancestry have such a great appeal to Americans is that America is a Christian nation. Since many people have christian values, Superman appeals to them because the Jewish values of the authors are very closely related. This is why I think superheroes come from Jewish beliefs.


  1. Hmm...I'm not too fond of your title, justin--careful there.

    But other that your summary being a little heavy, this is a good post. Nice work.

  2. I never thought of Superman being my favorite super hero because he has Christian values but that's a good way of thinking about it.