Superman is the original superhero, an American icon, and arguably the most famous character in the world--and he's Jewish! Introduced in June 1938, the Man of Steel was created by two Jewish teens, Jerry Siegel, the son of immigrants from Eastern Europe, and Joe Shuster, an immigrant. They based their hero's origin story on Moses, his strength on Samson, his mission on the golem, and his nebbish secret identity on themselves. They made him a refugee fleeing catastrophe on the eve of World War II and sent him to tear Nazi tanks apart nearly two years before the US joined the war. In the following decades, Superman's mostly Jewish writers, artists, and editors continued to borrow Jewish motifs for their stories, basing Krypton's past on Genesis and Exodus, its society on Jewish culture, the trial of Lex Luthor on Adolf Eichmann's, and a future holiday celebrating Superman on Passover.
A fascinating journey through comic book lore, American history, and Jewish tradition, Roy Schwartz's Is Superman Circumcised?: The Complete Jewish History of the World’s Greatest Hero (McFarland, 2021) examines the entirety of Superman's career from 1938 to date, and is sure to give readers a newfound appreciation for the Mensch of Steel!
Ari Barbalat holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of California in Los Angeles. He lives in Toronto with his family.