Was Superman Jewish?

We posted this article by Michael Gartland in the summer of 2006. It's gone from the servers of The Post and Courier -- Charleston.net News Charleston, SC and we don't recall the original title.

It does touch on the question of whether Superman was a Jew.
Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's the Messiah?

It's actually the question theatergoers are asking after watching the latest summer blockbuster.

'Superman Returns' has had audiences and media critics abuzz over the parallels between the film's main character and Jesus Christ. And it's no surprise; the movie is brimming with biblical and Christian symbolism.

There's Superman in an opening scene sprawled in his mother's lap, a la Pieta. Or there he is falling to Earth, arms splayed out, Christ-like. When Lois Lane tells him the world doesn't need a savior, he replies, 'Every day I hear them crying for one.'

If 'The Da Vinci Code' is this year's anti-Christian blockbuster, 'Superman Returns' serves as its foil. Warner Brothers, the film's producers, have even promoted and screened it in churches. Stephen Skelton recently released a book about Superman as savior, and said that preachers will undoubtedly use the most recent film (and his book) as a teaching tool in church.

'Superman is probably the most vibrant Christ figure in the world,' Skelton said. 'Our conversation about Da Vinci had to be about here's where they got it wrong. With Superman, we can say here's where they got it right.'

Of all the comic book superheroes, none have stories as overtly Judeo-Christian as Superman's. ...

Kal-El's parents shuttled him away from home to avoid imminent destruction. On Earth, he discovered he had special powers and eventually became Superman, a hero and standard bearer for "truth, justice, and the American way."

If it all sounds a little familiar, that might be because you've heard it before in the Bible. To protect their son, two parents placed him in a basket which they sent down a river. The orphan, Moses, became a prophet, a hero from the Book of Exodus.

Like Moses, Superman's birth-parents saved his life so he could help others. And like Moses, Superman had a Hebrew name, or at least one with Hebrew roots. His creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster grew up Jewish in Cleveland, and while they made Superman ostensibly Christian (some comic bibliophiles say Methodist), they also gave him characteristics with Jewish origins. Like the names.

Many of the characters from the planet Krypton have names that end in El, a Hebrew word which means God. For a time, his Earthling stepparents bore the Hebrew names of Eben and Sarah. In some issues of the comic book, they also bore the names of Mary and Joseph, but most typically, are referred to as Jonathan and Martha.

What Siegel and Shuster intended with all of this is still debated. Many comic book historians view Superman as Jewish assimilationist wish-fulfillment, that his creators used this idealized and revered character as an escape from their own difficulties as Jews growing up different in a Protestant culture. Some see Superman as a revised version of the Golem - a nonhuman being endowed with humanlike form - a character so popular among Eastern European Jews around the turn of the century....


Anonymous said...

Enjoy: http://www.aish.com/societyWork/arts/SuperMensch.asp

Ben Rambam said...

I once heard that S was also born circumcised, according to his creators. Is that true?