Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Culture

Your guide to everything Jewish about ‘Star Wars’

The temporally distant and far-flung galaxy of “Star Wars” is, like the Torah, a text touched by many hands over the years.

While creator George Lucas’ initial narrative impulse — relying on dull arcana like the “Journal of the Whills” — was Midrashic, the many Jews who worked on the script, and eventually assumed the directors’ chair, made the series into a beloved property. The now-complete Skywalker saga is a classic, if uneven, space opera that hints at a deep history while leaving much of its backstory to supplementary reads (your expanded universe Talmud).

This May the Fourth — dubbed “Star Wars” Day (“May the Fourth be with you”) — we’re providing a syllabus for what’s Jew-y about this epic of warrior monks, turbulent family dynamics and conspicuously anti-Semitic junk peddlers.

Seth Rogovoy provides a primer on the Jews behind the scenes and in front of the camera in the original trilogy and its prequels. Picking up on the Disney reboot, J.J. Abrams’ “The Force Awakens,” Jay Michaelson finds a pervasive “anxiety of influence” a la late literary critic Harold Bloom in its yearning for the mythic past.

Probing another issue of history, Noah Berlatsky explains why the series’ use of Nazi and fascist aesthetics feels hollow without the engine of targetted hate, while cartoonist Eli Valley considers Darth Vader’s expectations as a half-Jewish father. Meanwhile, a hop, skip and a hyperdrive away, Michaelson asserts that Han Solo is the most Goyish “Star Wars” hero (ironic, given Harrison Ford’s assertion that he feels most Jewish when he’s acting.)

As Sam Kestenbaum reported, the divisive Disney-era films generated controversy among fans, with some in far-right corners believing that a push for diversity in the new trilogy was a “Jewish plot.” Meanwhile, yours truly held Lucas’ prequels to account for their uncomfortable alien minstrelsy and unimaginative nods to anti-Semitic tropes.

There’s much to read, discuss and debate about beyond Baby Yoda’s aggressive cuteness and the Mandolorian’s status crypto-space Jew. But, while you read, might we suggest listening to this cantina song take on Ma’oz Tzur or the shofar blasts used in “Return of the Jedi?”

May the fourth be with you this tenth of Iyar.

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture fellow. He can be reached at [email protected].

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.