The Celebrate Israel Festival on May 31 at Pier 94, slated to be the largest gathering to date of Israeli-Americans in New York.
It’s been almost five years since director Ang Lee’s big budget movie The Hulk roared into theaters. Fans and critics alike were less than impressed, so moviegoers eagerly anticipated last week’s release of director Louis Leterrier’s new half-remake/half-revamp of the Bruce Banner saga, called The Incredible Hulk.
The basic story of the Hulk has become a staple of popular culture, thanks to the long running comic book and blockbuster 1970s TV series: a gamma ray accident saddles scientist Dr. Bruce Banner with a violent, unshakable alter ego. Known as the Hulk, this strapping, spinach-colored powerhouse has little patience for compound verbs (or much else), and has apparently been wearing the same pair of torn yet strangely intact blue trousers for more than forty years. This time around, the Hulk is played by Oscar-nominated actor Edward Norton (“Fight Club,” “American History X”).
As an involuntary superhero, the Hulk archetype originally served as a stark warning against the dangers of scientific experimentation and as a thinly veiled metaphor for the volatile social climate of the early sixties.
When the Hulk made his comic book debut, the United States and the Soviet Union were still locked in the Cold War, one in which physical casualties were few, but the emotional fallout was palpable. Anxiety about an imminent atomic attack colored everyday life.
The Hulk was created by two Jewish comic book legends, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, so it is particularly poignant that a symbolic parallel can be made with the Jewish state of Israel. Israel has enriched the world in countless ways, making numerous breakthroughs in medical research and technology. Sadly, all too often these contributions to humanity are overlooked, and its enemies view Israel as the world’s pariah.
Likewise, Bruce Banner is pursued by the American military, the very same men who’d once employed him. Led by the stern General Ross, they devote their entire arsenal to killing the Hulk. Ross’s daughter Betty has feelings for Banner, but Banner’s tragic, secret double life renders him unable to return her affection.
In the new movie, Banner is closer than ever to finding a cure for his affliction, but he has his (big green) hands full: while being pursued by another monster called The Abomination, the lonely, loveless Hulk is called upon to save New York City from destruction.
Just as the Jewish people were forced to wander from place to place to survive, so too the misbegotten Hulk wanders the planet in an elusive search for sanctuary.
A Jewish version of the Hulk can be found in the Golem, Judaism’s own monster-hero. While many comic book superheroes bear a superficial resemblance to the Golem, the Hulk truly personifies this mythical being; he is a powerful if extremely unpredictable protector, the result of an experiment gone horribly wrong.
As Stan Lee once remarked, “When you think about it, the Incredible Hulk is a Golem.”
Like other superheroes, Hulk’s strength recalls that of the biblical Samson. The series contains more obvious references to Samson as well. A character named Doctor Leonard Samson, a psychiatrist who believes he can cure the Hulk, appears in #141 (1971). The nerdy Doctor Samson empowers himself through a controlled dose of radiation and becomes Doc Samson, a massively muscled, green-haired superhuman with gamma-boosted strength, sporting long hair like his biblical namesake. Cutting Doc Samson’s hair saps his power, too.
In #227 (1978), Samson proposes therapy (a particularly Jewish remedy?) for the Hulk and even constructs a steel-reinforced psychiatrist’s couch. And in #373 (1990), Samson’s Jewish roots are confirmed when he admits he attended “yeshiva” and that he was intimidated by “a very strict rabbi.”
Over the course of the comic book series, as the Hulk roams the world in search of meaning and acceptance, it was inevitable that he would eventually reach the place to which people throughout history have made pilgrimages: the holy land of Israel. In the 1981 issue (#256) titled “Power and Peril in the Promised Land,” the Hulk does just that, aboard a freighter called Star of David.
Rudely awakened when the ship docks in Tel Aviv, Banner turns into the Hulk. Little does he realize he’s about to meet another superhero: his exact opposite in appearance, but one who shares the Hulk’s “anger issues.”
About the Author: Rabbi Simcha Weinstein, an internationally known best-selling author whose first book, "Up, Up and Oy Vey!" received the Benjamin Franklin Award, has been profiled in leading publications including The New York Times, The Miami Herald and The London Guardian. He was recently voted New York’s Hippest Rabbi by PBS Channel 13. He chairs the Religious Affairs Committee at Pratt Institute. His forthcoming book is “The Case for Children: Why Parenthood Makes Your World Better.”
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U.S and European demands for the creation of a Palestinian State in the West Bank is world hypocrisy.
We take a whole person approach, giving our people assistance with whatever they need.
During my spiritual journey I discovered G-d spoke to man only once, to the Jewish people at Sinai
Connecting Bamidbar&Shavuot is simple-A world without Torah is midbar; with Torah a blessed paradise
Many Black protesters compared Baltimore’s unrest to the Palestinian penchant of terrorism & rioting
She credited success to “mini” decisions-Small choices building on each other leading to big changes
Shavuot 1915, 200000 Jews were expelled; amongst the largest single expulsions since Roman times
Realizing there was no US military threat, Iran resumed, expanded & accelerated its nuclear program
“Enlightened Jews” who refuse to show chareidim the tolerance they insist we give to Arabs sicken me
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“…his neshamah reached out to us to have the zechus of Torah learning to take with him on his final journey.”
With the newest Superman film, “Man of Steel,” set for release next week, it seems only fitting to look back at the two men who created the world’s most famous superhero.
My wife was called for jury duty when she was pregnant with our fourth child. Since her due date was looming, her doctor wrote a letter to the court, asking for an exemption. When I went to the courthouse office to deliver the letter, I was taken aback by how long the line was.
It’s being called a game changer. Everybody seems to be talking about the recently released Jewish Community Study of New York and its surprising findings regarding New York’s changing Jewish demography.
In March 1941 – nine months before the attack on Pearl Harbor impelled America to enter the Second World War – one colorful American hero already had joined the battle: Captain America.
As an Englishman living in New York, I’ve become rather ambivalent toward the Royal Family over the years. The latest scandal rocking Buckingham Palace hasn’t changed my attitude.
Throughout our history, the survival of the Jewish people has depended upon the courage of Jewish women. With their unassuming femininity and modest morality – not to mention their wills of steel – they have led us by the power of their personal example for thousands of years.
For days after the Al Smith Memorial Dinner, held in mid-October at the Waldorf Astoria, the media buzzed with clips of presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama delivering hilarious routines that put many professional comedians to shame.
The release of the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight,” will inevitably be overshadowed by the untimely death of one of its stars, Health Ledger, who played the Joker. The talented young actor (who actually lived a few blocks from me) had devoted himself to creating an original, multifaceted portrayal of the iconic character, arguably the most compelling villain in the Batman canon.
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