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January 23, 2017 / 25 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Jew’

Which Jew Really Created Batman?

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

Bob Kane (1915-1998), the son of Eastern European Jews who changed his birth name from Robert Kahn to disguise his Jewish identity, studied art at Cooper Union before joining the Max Fleischer Studio as a trainee animator. In early 1939, the success of DC Comics with Superman led editors to seek more such superheroes and, in response, Kane conceived “Bird-Man” – later to become “Bat-Man” – whom, he said, was influenced by Leonardo da Vinci’s diagram of the ornithopter, a flying machine with huge bat-like wings, and by the 1930 film “The Bat Whispers.” According to Bill Finger, who joined Kane’s nascent studio in 1938:

Kane had an idea for a character called “Batman” and [wanted] me to see the drawings. I went over to Kane’s, and he had drawn a character who looked very much like Superman with kind of…reddish tights, I believe, with boots…with a small domino mask, swinging on a rope. He had two stiff wings that were sticking out, looking like bat wings…

Shown here is a beautifully drawn original signed felt-tip sketch by Kane titled “Batman” which, in a groan-inducing pun, he has signed with “Bats wishes.” In recent years, however, the idea that Kane’s was Batman’s sole creator has been largely debunked.

Batman was, in fact, the creation of two young Jewish teenagers of Eastern European Jewish descent who first met at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx during the Great Depression. Kane is improperly credited as the Caped Crusader’s sole artist and writer when it was actually Milton “Bill” Finger (1914-1974), the son of Jewish immigrants, who developed Batman’s defining iconography, including his cowl (instead of a domino mask), scalloped cape (instead of wings), gloves, blank mask eyeholes, pointy bat-like ears, and the gray-and-black color scheme of his uniform.

Finger also originated the Bat Cave and the Batmobile; came up with the name “Bruce Wayne for Batman’s civilian secret identity; titled Batman’s home base as “Gotham City;” thought up Batman’s nickname, “the Dark Knight”; and, perhaps most important, changed the essence of the character from the violent vigilante originally envisioned by Kane to a brilliant costumed detective.

After writing the first Batman story, “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” Finger went on to author 1,500 more stories over 25 years. He also created Alfred the butler; several Batman foes, including the Riddler, Two-Face, and the Penguin; and played a key role in the creation of Batman’s sidekick, Robin, and coined the phrase “dynamic duo” to refer to the Batman-Robin team. Indeed, he is credited by many for coming up with the mysterious nocturnal name “Batman” instead of “Birdman.”

Finger also originated “Kryptonite” in the Superman comics; created Lana Lang, a love-interest for the teenage Superboy; and originated another famous DC character, Green Lantern. (The appearance of the male members of the Guardians of the Universe, a group that made its first appearance in a 1960 issue of the Green Lantern comic book, was modeled after David Ben-Gurion, who at the time was serving his second stint as Israel’s prime minister.)

Moreover, Batman’s arch nemesis, the Joker, was not Kane’s idea but was conceived by Jerry Robinson, a Jewish journalism student whom Kane met at Grossingers, the popular Jewish Catskill resort. (Characteristically, Kane took credit for conceiving and developing the Joker but, in a rare concession, he gave Finger co-credit for creating Batman’s greatest foe.)

Batwoman – who, by the way, is Jewish (for example, she is shown in one issue of Batman comics celebrating Chanukah with a friend) – was created by another Jew, Sheldon Moldoff, an artist who served as one of Kane’s primary “ghost artists.

In fact, from the very beginning Kane used “ghosts” to draw and write Batman and, though he himself actually drew very few of the Batman comics, he is the only person officially credited with the creation of the Caped Crusader. He suppressed information about Finger’s integral role, even going so far as to publicly accuse Finger of having “hallucinations of grandeur.” Kane unilaterally sold the publishing rights without including Finger in the deal, signing away ownership of the character in exchange for, among other things, a mandatory byline on all Batman comics and character adaptations.

Finger, a humble man, never sought any credit or royalties but, according to an acknowledgement by Kane himself later in his life: “Finger was a contributing force on Batman right from the beginning. He wrote most of the great stories and was influential in setting the style and genre other writers would emulate…. I made Batman a superhero-vigilante when I first created him. Bill turned him into a scientific detective.”

In his memoir (1989), Kane conceded: “I must admit that Bill never received the fame and recognition he deserved. He was an unsung hero…. I never thought of giving him a by-line and he never asked for one. I often tell my wife, ‘If I could go back 15 years, before he died, I would like to say, ‘I’ll put your name on it now, you deserve it.’ ”

Nonetheless, and notwithstanding the substantive challenges to Kane being the true creator of Batman, it is perhaps not surprising that his final tombstone, erected by his family in 1998, portrays him as the divinely inspired creator of the Dark Knight:

GOD bestowed a dream upon Bob Kane. Blessed with divine inspiration and a rich imagination, Bob created a legacy known as BATMAN . . . a “Hand of God” creation…. Bob Kane, Bruce Wayne, Batman – they are one and the same. Bob infused his dual identity character with his own attributes: goodness, kindness, compassion, sensitivity, generosity, intelligence, integrity, courage, purity of spirit, a love of all mankind. Batman is known as the “Dark Knight,” but through his deeds he walks in the Light of a Higher Power, as did his creator – Bob Kane.

Regardless of which Jew actually created Batman, some theorize that, much as Superman’s origins lie in the Holocaust (see my July 24, 2015 Jewish Press front-page essay, “Is Superman Jewish?”), Batman had his roots in Kristallnacht. The argument is perhaps best presented by Rabbi Simcha Weinstein, who wrote: “Like the Jews in Europe, Bruce Wayne and his family thought they had all they needed to be insulated from the vagaries of life. Yet, like the Jews of Europe, it was all taken away from them in an instant.” It this context, it is worth noting that in “Swastikas over the White House(1943), the Dynamic Duo defeat a mob of American Nazis.

Now, this is really fun, but you’ve got to follow carefully: there exists a good faith argument, albeit a creative one, that Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) is not only Jewish, but halachically so – even though there is no evidence of a mezuzah on the Bat Cave:

  1. Most Batman aficionados know that Bruce Wayne’s mother, Martha Wayne, was murdered with her husband in an assault witnessed by the young Bruce, which became the precipitating event in leading him to become Batman. What few remember, however, is that Martha’s maiden name was Kane – and, remembering that Bob Kane was Jewish, that last name cannot be coincidental.
  2. Kathy Kane (aka “Batwoman”) is not only officially Jewish, she is shown conspicuously observing Chanukah.
  3. In a conversation with Bruce, Kathy mentions that they are first cousins. As such, Bruce’s mother is Kathy’s paternal aunt.

4 As such, Kathy’s father is Jewish, and it therefore follows that Martha was also Jewish.

  1. If Martha was halachically Jewish, so was her son, Bruce.

Finally, Rabbi Cary Friedman, in his August 24, 2012 Jewish Press front page essay “Why Batman Matters,” tells a wonderful story about Batman and Rav Avigdor Miller, zt”l. One of the rav’s students, asked to prepare little gift bags to be distributed to the children at the shul on Simchat Torah, included a Batman comic book in each bag. A congregant objected and, questioning the propriety of distributing the Batman comic, argued that copies of Tehillim be included in the gift bags instead. The student submitted the question to Rav Miller who, after reviewing the comic book, stated:

Tell the person who said it’s a sin to give these books out that he’s wrong, and that it’s even a mitzvah. The books teach law and order to the kids by making sure the hero always overcomes the villain, no matter what obstacles he encounters. The heroes even teach humility since they disguise their true identities and keep their good deeds confidential.

Batman: not only an American cultural icon created by Jews, but also a role model for young Jewish children!

Saul Jay Singer

Do you know a Jew? No?! Rent one!

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

The above headline is actually the greeting at a new German website called RentaJew.org, right below the big, capped WILLKOMMEN.

“Why ‘Rent a Jew?'” says the “About” section, explaining: “Cars can be rented, but Jews? This may initially sound offensive. After all, for hundreds of years, anti-Semites have claimed that Jews are less valuable than other people. We are tired of hearing such suggestions. And we believe that humor mixed with a bit of chutzpah is the best way to refute old stereotypes and prejudices and show how absurd they are.”

There are 250,000 Jews in Germany, but few Germans know a Jew personally, according to Rent-a Jew. They want to change that by creating encounters between Jews and non-Jews – “away from stereotypes and stereotypes.”

“With Rent a Jew it becomes possible to talk to each other instead of about one another,” argues the website, “to answer questions on both sides and to dismantle prejudices.”

An initiative launched by the Munich-based European Janusz Korczak Academy with help from the Jewish Agency for Israel, provides speakers to educational institutions or groups of any size, for school classes, adult education courses, church communities, student groups or cultural associations.

Rent a Jew provides Jews of different ages and backgrounds who are “as colorful as Judaism itself.” They are not professional speakers or experts, they are the Jews next door with their own personal stories and opinions, as well as much else, “from food to music, literature and religion” – anything goes (almost).

Rent-a Jew’s Mascha Schmerling told Deutsche Welle the new service is there ” to provoke, to promote conversation. We want to give people the chance to talk to the Jewish community. We want them to see that we’re completely normal people. We don’t want to be defined purely by history and we don’t want to always be seen through this Holocaust lens.”


Pop Culture Pundit Sees Superman as Paradigm of the Assimilated Jew

Monday, November 21st, 2016

Author and pundit Noah Berlatsky, whose collection of essays “Your Favorite Superhero Sucks” came out in September, told Sequential Tart’s Suzette Chan he thinks “superheroes are in a lot of ways originally a fantasy of assimilation.”

Chan noted how “many people have noted how the Jewish creators of Superman coded Jewishness into his alienness.” It got Berlatsky going:

“…I think superheroes are in a lot of ways originally a fantasy of assimilation,” he said. “Jewish creators like [Jerry] Siegel, [Joe] Shuster and Jack Kirby created these Jewish stereotypes (Clark Kent, Steve Rogers) who transformed into heroes who were more American than American.

“So, I think there’s a sense in which superheroes started as a kind of dream of whiteness; Superman and Captain America can be seen as Jewish creators imagining how they’d be awesome and powerful if they were white. And I think that has made it structurally difficult in some ways for superheroes to be black or POC (people of color). You have to work against the tropes a little bit. It requires more imagination, and perhaps a willingness to not treat the genre with too much reverence.”

Noah Berlatsky is the editor of the comics and culture blog The Hooded Utilitarian. He has written on gender, comics, and culture for many publications, including Slate, Public Books, The Chicago Reader, Reason, The Comics Journal, The Baffler, and The Atlantic.


Aleph Beta: Lech Lecha: Was Abraham The First Wandering Jew?

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

In the video for Parshat Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27), David and Immanuel ask – why is it that, though God keeps reassuring Abraham that this land is his, he refuses to settle down? God just promised him the land – why wouldn’t he mark his territory? To answer this, we are reminded that the stories of Abraham occur in a larger context – and specifically, right after the catastrophe of the Tower of Babel – and we can answer the question: what is it about Abraham that really makes him special, and the father of our nation?

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Rabbi David Fohrman

Holiday News: Police Arrest Jew on Temple Mount

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

An 18-year-old Jewish man was arrested Wednesday morning on the Temple Mount on suspicion of bowing before the King of the Universe, Honenu reported. The young man was taken for police interrogation, and Honenu, a legal aid society, is pursuing his release. Rumor has it that the same man also broke the law by reciting the Shema Israel, a radical text introduced in 1248 BCE.

David Israel

‘God Has Sent Us The Jew From Judah To Help Us’: An Interview with Malawi’s Israeli MP

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

An Israeli in an African parliament? It sounds bizarre, but it’s true. Malawi, a small landlocked country in southeast Africa (population: 17 million), counts exactly two whites in its 193-member parliament. One of them is 50-year-old David Yakov Bisnowaty, a former IDF soldier and the son of a Holocaust survivor.

While here in New York last week for the opening of the UN General Assembly’s 71st session, Bisnowaty, who is married with three children, spoke to The Jewish Press.

The Jewish Press: What’s your background?

Bisnowaty: My father worked as a mechanical engineer for a big multinational company, which sent him to Africa. So I was born in Israel but grew up in Kenya. And when you grow up in Africa, you have a bond with Africa.

Eventually I went back to Israel and served in the Israeli army. But later I returned to Africa and lived in South Africa. Then, in 1993, I found myself on a business strip to Malawi and fell in love with the place. So I decided to move there, and since then I’ve probably been the single largest investor in Malawi. I have a pharmaceutical factory which manufactures generic drugs – it’s the biggest pharmaceutical factory in Malawi – and I also distribute medical equipment to hospitals.

How did you wind up in Malawi’s parliament?

I entered politics in 2014 because I felt something had to be done. What triggered me was nearly running over a young boy with my car. He was licking the road because he had spilled the food he was carrying, and my heart broke. I couldn’t believe poverty was so bad that people had to lick the road just to get a little bit of food. So I told my family, “I’m going to enter politics to help the poor Malawians.”

Everybody said, “You’re crazy. A white man, a Jew, a non-indigenous person, is going to be elected a member of parliament? You’ll never make it.”

But I ran against 11 other contestants and won by an overwhelming majority. I became the first Jewish member of parliament in Malawi for the biggest constituency, which is Lilongwe, the capital of the country. I serve close to a million people.

Are you the only Jew serving in a parliament on the continent of Africa (excluding South Africa)?

According to the information I have, yes.

As a member of Malawi’s parliament, what causes do you try to advance?

I have many projects. We just passed a marriage bill that a young girl cannot marry before the age of 18. That was a big success. I also was able to get running water for 23 villages in my area. The women in these villages used to go to the stream to collect water, which they then brought home on their heads. Now they have tap water next to their homes. So that for me is a big success story.

I’m also advocating for democracy. We have democracy obviously, but Africa got it quite late [so it needs improvement]. I also fight corruption. It’s not easy and it will take time, but that is one of my struggles as well. Finally, I focus heavily on education. I believe that if we educate the people, Malawi will change.

What do people in Malawi think of Jews in general and Israel specifically?

Israel was one of the countries that assisted Malawi from the time it got its independence [in the late 1960s]. It sent doctors and others to help Malawi, so the ties between the two countries have been very strong since then.

Regarding Jews: I don’t see any anti-Semitism in Malawi. People actually love that I’m a Jew. They see me as a businessman who didn’t go into politics because of money but because of ideology, because of love for the country. I think they have more trust in me for that reason; they believe that I’m genuinely coming to help them.

In general, they believe the Jewish people are blessed and are here for a purpose by G-d. People in Malawian villages actually say [about me], “G-d has sent us the Jew from Judah to help us.” And that might be why I ended up in Malawi. If you believe in God – and I do believe in Him – then [surely] I didn’t end up in Malawi for nothing.

Are there any Jews in Malawi besides you and your family?

No, unfortunately we’re the only ones.

If you wanted to observe Judaism in Malawi, are there any resources at all to do so?

We keep a kosher home in Malawi; we get our meat from South Africa. I’m not very religious but I keep the tradition, so this Rosh Hashanah, for example, I will be spending in South Africa where I have a house that is close to a shul.

Why do you have a house there?

It’s for my daughter, who is more frum and teaching in a Jewish school in South Africa. So she uses the house, and then when I come down to South Africa, I use it as well.

What’s the official language of Malawi?

English. They have a local language – Chichewa – but the official language is English.

What’s next for you?

I plan to run for at least another term when this one concludes in 2019. After that, God knows.

Elliot Resnick

Samaria Jew Indicted for Shooting at Arab Taxi that Tried to Run Him Over

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

A young resident of Samaria was indicted on Sunday for endangering lives on a traffic lane when he shot an air gun at an Arab taxi on Aug. 24, 2016. The shot smashed the car’s rear window but no one was hurt. The police and Shabak announcement described the suspect, Moshe Yinon Oren, 18, a resident of Ronen Hilltop, which Police referred to as Arusi Hilltop (the settlement is named after Ronen Arusi, who established it), as a “rightwing extremist” who was risking human lives.

A search in Oren’s home yielded an air gun that was used in the even described in the indictment, an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) which he is accused of driving during the event, an empty magazine for plastic bullets caliber 5.56, gas canisters, a sling, and a metal box containing 37 anti-vehicle spikes.

The Police and Shabak announcement also says Oren has confessed to the charges and reenacted the event: he arrived on his ATV at Route 60 near the main Yitzhar junction, where police say he shot his air gun at the Arab taxi and fled the scene.

However, according to legal aid society Honenu, whose attorney Itai Rosin represents Oren, the indictment and the announcement omit a crucial component, namely the fact that the Arab taxi veered off its path in an attempt to ram Oren’s vehicle. According to Rosin, on Aug. 24 his client was riding his ATV on the road leading to Har Bracha, when the taxi, with five Arab workers inside, veered of its path on the opposite side of the road in an attempt to ram his vehicle, forcing him off to the shoulder of the road.

In response, Oren turned around and gave chase after the taxi, catching up with it at the roundabout of the Hawara Village, at which point he pulled out his air gun and shot the car’s rear window. A week ago Saturday night he was arrested and spent the week in a Shabak interrogation facility without contact with a lawyer, even though the indictment does not accuse him of a weapons violation or a hate crime.

Attorney Rosin said in a statement that his client, “a young man who is about to enlist in the IDF, felt threatened as a result of the wild driving of the complainants, and used a toy gun, an air gun. This is not a ‘price tag’ action, my client does not belong to this group or another, and the indictment itself does not accuse him of race- or weapons-related violations. It is inconceivable that my client would be investigated by the Shabak and be kept from seeing his lawyer, a harsh and ongoing violation of his fundamental rights, all of it under the cover of a gag order as if this were a serious security violation. If the same acts had been committed by a boy from Tel Aviv or Herzlia he would certainly not have been interrogated by the Shabak and kept from meeting an attorney.” Rosin added, “I am certain these discrepancies will receive their proper attention during his trial.”

David Israel

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/samaria-jew-indicted-for-shooting-at-arab-taxi-that-tried-to-run-him-over/2016/09/04/

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