10 Reasons Superman Is Really Jewish

Sort Of Semitic Superhero Celebrates 75th Birthday

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, and It’s Also Super Jewish: The three legs of the Superman myth — truth, justice and the American way — come straight out of the Mishnah
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It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, and It’s Also Super Jewish: The three legs of the Superman myth — truth, justice and the American way — come straight out of the Mishnah

By Larry Tye

Published June 12, 2013, issue of June 21, 2013.
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6) Clark Kent was Superman trying to assimilate. Superman was the real thing — as muscle-bound as the Polish-Jewish strongman Siegmund Breitbart and as indestructible as The Golem — and an inspiration to every Jewish schlump who knew there was a super being inside him. Even kryptonite radiated with symbolism: It showed the influence Clark’s homeland still had over its Last Son, threatening to upend his life in the Diaspora.

7) Superman’s lingering heartsickness at leaving Krypton and living as an alien on Earth was classic survivor’s guilt.

8) If most of his admirers did not recognize Superman’s Jewish origins, the Third Reich did. A 1940 article in Das Schwarze Korps, the newspaper of the SS, called Siegel “Siegellack,” the “intellectually and physically circumcised chap who has his headquarters in New York.” Superman was a “pleasant guy with an overdeveloped body and underdeveloped mind.” Creator and creation were stealthily working together, the Nazis concluded, to sow “hate, suspicion, evil, laziness and criminality” in the hearts of American youth.

9) Superman had strong cultural ties to the faith of his founders. He started life as the consummate liberal, championing causes from disarmament to the welfare state. He was the ultimate foreigner, escaping to America from his intergalactic shtetl and shedding his Jewish name for “Clark Kent.” Clark also had something in common with his boyish creators, Siegel and his artist sidekick, Joe Shuster: All were classic nebbishes. Clark and Superman lived life the way most newly arrived Jews did, torn between their Old and New World identities and their mild exteriors and rock-solid cores. That split personality was the only way Superman could survive, yet it gave him perpetual angst. You can’t get more Jewish than that.

10) A last rule of thumb: When a name ends in “man,” the bearer is Jewish, a superhero or in this case both.

Larry Tye is the author of six books, including one on the Jewish Diaspora.


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