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What Yiddish (and the Forward) are doing in the new ‘Spider-Man’

Everytime Spider-Man flirts with the fickle multiverse he encounters a couple of constants. The first is that a version of Spider-Man exists in every reality. The second is that Jews do too. Even, it would seem, the Jews who write for this very Jewish paper.

In “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” Jews are everywhere. As David Bashevkin noted in a nifty Twitter thread, Yeshiva University looms large in the skyline and, at Peter Parker’s fictional Midtown High, a student wearing a kippah can be spotted welcoming the newly-unmasked Spider-Man back to class.

This, along with some Hanukkah decorations I spotted at MJ’s doughnut shop (the very real Peter Pan Donuts in Greenpoint), make for a New York City that feels true to life, just as the absence of NPC Hasidim on Shabbat on the Spider-Man video game, are a knowing nod to the city’s Jewish makeup.

And while nothing can quite match the naches of learning, as we did in “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” that one universe’s iteration of Peter Parker smashed a glass at his wedding, the new film’s extensive multimedia hits closer to home.

Yes, the Forverts exists in the Spider-Verse! In fact, we had a hand in getting it there.

A Forverts frontpage features Spider-Man and asks readers if he is “good for the Jews.” Image by The Spider-Man: No Way Home app

While we didn’t spot our cameo in the film itself – it’s possible our Spidey senses failed us – we are definitely featured on the app Marvel released with the film. If you open up Peter Parker’s smartphone on the app, the first photo on his camera reel is a bodega newsstand. There’s an InTouch magazine calling him “two-faced,” and, below it, a Forverts cover that shows Spidey and says, in Yiddish “Is this” i.e. Spider-Man’s unmasking “good for the Jews?” (Classic.)

This all started way back in 2020 when the production company reached out to us, wanting a bit of hometown Yiddish flavor for Spider-Man’s New York. Our intrepid designer Angelie Zaslavsky helped to format the Yiddish type and Forverts editor Rukhl Schaechter translated. (Fun fact for “Seinfeld” stans, the film had the working title of “Serenity Now.”)

Naturally, we’re kvelling to have played any part in this, the most heimish of the Spider-Man films, where the webslinger meets up with an extended mishpocheh of fellow arachnid-men from all manner of different worlds.

But for those concerned with the implications of the broader Marvel Universe, including to which timeline Tom Holland’s Peter Parker belongs, the Forverts cameo provides answers. Whatever reality he lives in, it can’t be ours, as the Forverts is now online only.

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