Me, Spidey and Judaism: With Great Chutzpah Comes Great Responsibility

Recently, Andrew Garfield stated he believes Spider-Man is Jewish.  I was told by my fellow Unleash The Fanboy writers that I should write an article about his revelation.  I replied that I only write original thought, not old news.  What Garfield stated was not a unique debate, nor was it shocking.

His exact words to Time Out were: ““Spider-Man is neurotic. Peter Parker is not a simple dude. He can’t just switch off. He never feels like he’s doing enough. And Peter suffers from self-doubt. He ums and ahs about his future because he’s neurotic. He’s Jewish. It’s a defining feature.”

Now, I want to be clear- Andrew Garfield has not been proven, as of yet, to be a scholar on Jewish ancestry, nor does he have the authority to convert anyone.  Sure, he identifies as Jewish, but that does not give him the right to circumcise anyone.

I actually think his argument sucks a bit.  There are plenty of other neurotic folk that are not big Jews.  Plus, considering Garfield plays the least neurotic Spider-Man, I don’t believe he can claim to be an expert on neuroticism.  But even without Garfield’s backing, Peter Parker is definitely a Jewy Jew.

Instead of regurgitating others’ debates, I will tell you, my dear readers, the close relationship between me, Spidey and Judaism.  Unlike Garfield, I am a scholar on Jewish ancestry, and I like to make believe I have the authority to convert characters.

Oh, and I’m Spider-Man.  No lie.  I am Spider-Man. 

spidey jewish

I am extremely neurotic.  I have no problem stating this because I refuse to allow any stereotype dictate who I am.  I worry most of my day (my spider-sense is always going off), and my favorite hobby is bickering.  The motto I live by is that you can complain all day long as long as you put one foot in front of the other and do what you gotta do.  Sounds like Spidey to me.  Most days consist of me accomplishing great feats while envisioning my world crumbling around me.spidey humor

One of my weapons to overcome my neuroticism is my incredible sense of humor (incredible!).  This sense of humor was passed down from my father, who got it from his father, who got it from his father because they are Jews and Jews are funny.  This is a fact.  If we did not laugh, how the hell would we have survived thousands of years of oppression?  We had to all become Spider-Men and Spider-Women, using humor to overcome challenging situations.  Many times, we have been attacked by goblins and have laughed our way through our struggles.

And we have done it while the world has often hated and stereotyped us.  While at times the press has vilified us and governments have turned their backs on us, we have done what we believed was right through it all.  Sounds downright Spider-tastic.  J. Jonah Jameson is always out to get Spidey, and the police often see Spidey as a nuisance.  But no matter what, he stands by his values.  Pretty dang Jewy.

Personally, my days are spent juggling working in a school, interacting with my family, being a caring boyfriend and writing conscious articles to motivate others.  And just like Spider-Man, I believe that what I do matters, and if I mess one thing up something bad might happen.  I know I have power, and with great power comes great, you know the rest.  That is a very Jewish feeling.  Jews believe we have to be a “light unto the nations.”  We should hold ourselves to a high standard of moral behavior.  I will not write an article telling you that all Jews are great beacons of humanity, and I have little time to be judged due to other Jews’ lack of morals.  But in my overly Jewy family, I was taught to hold myself to high standards related to ethics.  Sure, I went through years of swaying from this path.  For a period, I forgot my power and grew addicted to outside substances.  But eventually, I realized that I have the power to be a positive member of society, and I now embrace the responsibility to do so.

peter parker aunt may

A few years back, my responsibilities lessened when my Aunt Marrion died at 102 year old.  Even though she lived a full life, I was devastated.  Who would I visit every Sunday afternoon to receive my weekly dose of put ups and Yiddish lessons?  Even though I miss her, I would never say “I wish I had been there for her” because I was.  When she was happy, I was there.  When she was sad, I was there.  I was there when she lived, and I was there when she died.  My whole family was there for her.  My family is more than a tad bit meshuggina at times, but we are together through it all- just like Aunt May and Peter.  Peter has made mistakes in his life, as have I, but we have both learned from our mistakes.  Like Spidey, I do not take my loved ones for granted.  Not surprisingly, the importance of a strong family is one of the most important aspects of the Jewish faith.

spiderman genius

And one last way I am Spidey- I am soooo scrawny.   For real, Spider-Man is one of the scrawniest heroes ever.  His power comes from within.  No matter how many villains he has fought, he has always understood that knowledge is power.  I will not get into steriotypes about Jews playing sports, but in my family tossing a ball across a field of brutes took second place to academics.  For instance, when I was twelve, I wanted to join the wrestling team.  My parents told me no because my Bar Mitzvah was coming up and we could not take the chance of me getting injured.  Anyhoo, I never realized my career as a famous athlete.  Traditionally, Jewish culture values our minds more than our muscle.  We know that one day our bodies will die, but our spirit will live on.  The most respected amongst our communities were the rabbinic scholors.  Even many secular Jews, who may not be spending days chilling in the Yeshiva, spend their days hoarding knowledge.

In conclusion, although Andrew Garfield portrays the least Jewish Spidey ever, he is right:  Spidey is a total Jew because I am Spider-Man.  Every day, I wake up, put on my tefillin, say my prayers and remember “with great power comes great responsibility.”

spiderman_kotelSpidermun painting source: Jeannette Lilith Herrera

(For more info on Spidey’s Jewish heritage check out: From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books by Arie Kaplan  and Up, Up, and Oy Vey: How Jewish History, Culture, and Values Shaped The Comic Book Superhero by Simcha Weinstein)