While his 2021 book may have won an international prize for the oddest title of the year, Roy Schwartz discusses a serious pop culture topic that sheds a new light on the world of superheroes and their intersection with Jewish history.
The author of “Is Superman Circumcised? The Complete Jewish History of the World’s Greatest Hero” will give three presentations at Gates of Prayer in Metairie on Oct. 9, and the community is invited. All ages are welcome.
At 9:30 a.m., he will present “Superhero Sukkot: The Jewish Origins of Superheroes!” Comic books and superheroes trace their roots to Jewish creators, including Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Captain America, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Avengers, X-Men, Black Panther and many others.
Superman has one of the most Jewish backstories, created by Jewish teens Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The sons of immigrants from Eastern Europe, they introduced Superman in 1938, basing his origins on Moses, his strength on Samson and his mission on the Golem. His nebbish secret identity? That was them.
Nearly two years before the U.S. entered World War II, Superman was tearing apart Nazi tanks in Europe.
But that wasn’t the end of it — many story arcs were taken from contemporary Jewish events.
Those attending the 9:30 a.m. talk are encouraged to dress up as a favorite superhero.
At 10:15 a.m., Schwartz will present “Secret Identities: The Jewish Origins of the Marvel Universe!” He will describe how, like many industries “relegated” to Jews in an often antisemitic society, comic books were seen as disreputable. The superheroes became a way for Jewish writers to fight back against intolerance and bigotry, and almost all of the Marvel characters came from Jews.
At 6 p.m., Schwartz will discuss “Is Superman Circumcised,” giving the history of the all-American character and why he should be called the “mensch” of steel.
Schwartz has written for a wide range of publications, including the New York Daily News, Jerusalem Post and Philosophy Now. He currently writes about pop culture for The Forward and CNN.com.
His professional writing is similarly diverse, including educational organizations, law firms, tech companies, toy companies and production studios.
He has taught English and writing at the City University of New York and is a former writer-in-residence fellow at the New York Public Library, and interned for Marvel Comics.
Originally from Tel Aviv, Schwartz grew up a voracious reader of everything from Israeli novels to British plays to American comic books. He taught himself English from comics and cartoons, which is why he’s comfortable saying things like “swell.”