Tonight is the last night of Hanukkah and we are marking this occasion a little differently. Rather than show how the Marvel characters would celebrate this holiday, we are going to show you who would be celebrating by sharing some of Marvel’s most important Jewish characters.
Real Name: Max Eisenhardt/ Erik Lehnsherr
On Screen Portrayal: Ian McKellen (older)/ Michael Fassbender (younger)
Why He’s Important: The character of Magneto has come to be defined by his tragic backstory which is interwoven with his Jewish identity. As a child, Max and his mother, father, and sister were sent to the Auschwitz death camp. He was the only one survive. It was there that his mutant powers came to light. (In the film X-Men: First Class, it is suggested that he was experimented on to bring these powers out and make them stronger.)
The horrors Magneto faces in Auschwitz and after turn him into one of the most complex Marvel villains. His actions against humanity, and in turn the X-Men, are not done out of pure evil, but fear of the destruction of the mutant race the same way as his Jewish people. Magneto’s Jewishness has come to define his character and shape the sympathy people feel towards him as a villain.
Key Issues: Uncanny X-Men #150 (1981) by Chris Claremont
This is the first issue where Magneto’s backstory and history as a Holocaust survivor is revealed.
2. Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat
Real Name: Katherine Anne Pryde
On Screen Portrayal: Ellen Page (X-Men: The Last Stand/ X-Men: Days of Future Past), Sumela Kay (X-Men), Katie Stewart (X2)
Why She’s Important: Kitty’s Jewishness in the comics is a part of her as a character, but it does not define her. She is occasionally seen wearing a Star of David necklace or speaking about her heritage. In the holiday episode of the animated series, X-Men: Evolution she is even seen lighting a menorah with her family. Kitty’s representation of Judaism is very realistic, showing a character who practices religion in an everyday way.
Key Issues: Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1 #159 by Chris Claremont
Kitty uses her signature Star of David necklace to save Storm from Dracula (yes, really).
3. The Thing
Real Name: Benjamin Jacob Grimm
On Screen Portrayal: Fantastic Four: Jamie Bell (2015), Michael Chiklis (2005), Michael Bailey Smith (1994)
Why He’s Important: Ben Grimm was conceived as a Jewish character from his creation by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, but his religion has not come into play until more recently. The Grimm family grew up in a poor neighborhood in New York City and Ben joined a gang at a young age. As a character who usually views himself as an outsider because of his alter ego, The Thing, his Jewishness at times can be another isolating factor. However, there have been issues where Ben has made peace with his past and his religion as well as shared it with other members of his team.
Key Issues: Fantastic Four 56 (Vol. 3) “Remembrance of Things Past” by Karl Kesel
This is the issue where Ben’s Jewishness was revealed in a flashback to his past as a young gang member.
Real Name: Ruth-Beth Seraph
On Screen Portrayal: N/A
Why She’s Important: Sabra grew up on a special kibbutz in Israel for people with powers. She became the first superhero to work for the Mossad (Israeli secret service) and also served on the Israeli police force. Her character not only has to deal with superhuman abilities, but also living in a region under constant turmoil. Many of her storylines are tied into the on-going conflict between the Jews and Muslims in the Middle East.
Key Issues: Incredible Hulk Vol. 1 #256 by Bill Mantio
The first issue where Sabra is fully introduced in a fight against the Hulk over a misunderstanding in the death of a child.
Other notable Jewish Characters:
- Wanda & Pietro Maximoff (Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver)
- Moon Knight
- Punisher Noir
- Abraham Erksine
Hope everyone had a Happy Hanukkah!