Nitza Goldman
An Olah Chadasha learning to make sense of the world.

We Finally Got Our Jewish Superhero, but…

Moon Knight holding a Sefer Torah after rescuing it from a burning synagogue- Moon Knight #37, 1984

(Some Spoilers Ahead)

For years, the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe or the MCU, has been lacking Jewish representation on screen, whereas the comic books are bursting with Jewish heroes . In Avengers: Age of Ultron, released in 2015, we were introduced to Wanda and Peitro Maximoff. In the comics they are the children of Holocaust survivor Max Eisnhardt, Magneto is his alias. But in the movies, I guess in part due to the movie deals Marvel had at the time with Fox Studios, their Jewish heritage was erased (Wanda and Peitro couldn’t be children of Magneto in the MCU, but in the X-Men universe they could be. But now that Disney has bought Fox Studios the MCU can expand into X-Men territories and the other franchises). In the X-Men movies, Magneto, an anti-hero, remains Jewish, two of these movies open up with him as a child in Auschwitz where his mutations emerge, and he’s experimented on. Another prominent Jewish character in the X-Men comic book series, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Kitty Pryde, had her Jewish heritage taken away from her in the movies, even though she was proud of both her Jewish identity and Mutant one. 

Kitty Pryde on Her Identities as a Jew and Mutant

This is a real shanda, because the comic book industry was built on the backs of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Joe Simons, who were all Jewish. The X-Men series, which Stan Lee wrote, was written in the 60’s as a response to the racism that was and the rising antisemitism, so when these comics were created for the silver screen, one would expect to have the Jewish representation even if it was to just honor the legends of yesteryear. But Marvel has finally introduced to the MCU: Marc Spector/Steven Grant, who is played by Oscar Issac in the TV show. 

Marc Spector was introduced as Moon Knight in the new Disney+ show Moon Knight. We were introduced first to Steven Grant, the Alter ego to Marc Spector who has DID- Dissociative Identity Disorder- Steven is British and not Jewish while Marc is from Chicago and is Jewish, but we don’t meet Marc until the second episode. By the end of the second episode we see a simple gold chained Magen David laying around Marc’s neck, thus confirming that his Judaism wasn’t left out in the MCU (In the comics, Marc comes from a line of Rabbi’s, his father was a Rabbi who left Europe before World War II, his grandfather was a Rabbi, and so on. So it was important that the MCU didn’t leave out his heritage in the show.) In the comics it’s an Antisemetic attack which led Marc to join the military and then become a mercenary which led him to Khonshu, the Egyptian moon god, which is how he became MoonKnight. In the comics he didn’t want to be a pacifist like his father, but rather to fight back against Antisemitism in a more aggressive way. 

So after 3 episodes of “Oy’s” in passing comments, and shots of a Mezuzah on a door frame and a Magen David, I wasn’t expecting so much of his Jewishness to play a big role, but in this week’s episode, we finally got more. (Spoilers ahead) In flashback scenes we witness two Shiva Minyans in Marc’s family. One for his little brother when they were kids, which set off his mother to become an abusive parent, and a Shiva for his mother later on. (His mental illness was caused by the Trauma from his mother, to separate himself from the abuse but to also have a happy childhood, we find out Marc created Steven for this.) In the second Shiva scene, we see Marc standing outside of his childhood home where the Shiva for his mother is happening and he doesn’t go in. Instead he stumbles away, with a blue knit Kippah atop his head, and he falls to the ground devastated and angry. In a truly raw state, he takes the Kippah off his head and places it on the ground, hits it twice, then he picks it back up close to his heart and whispers while sobbing I’m sorry over and over before dissociating and becoming a lost and confused Steven Grant. 

I do have some criticism though: the producers strayed away from the original material, which is normal from a book to screen adaptation. But with this adaptation, when Judaism is so central to the character’s story, changing it in the show hurts a little. In a 2019 comic issue, Marc finds out a close family friend, was masquerading as a Jew only to turn out to be a Nazi set on murdering Jews. We see the dichotomy of  Marc’s father, a pacifist Rabbi who escaped Nazi persecution, and Marc, a boxer turned mercenary, set on taking out the bad of the bad, after witnessing an antisemetic attack. The show so far hasn’t shown this, so there’s still hope for next week’s episode seeing as we didn’t get anything really Jewish until episode 5. This week’s episode was released on the eve of Yom Hashoah, so the TV show really could have explored this more with one of its Holocaust-related story lines: his father escaping Europe, Neo-Nazis burning down a synagogue, or choosing to make the father the abusive parent from PTSD from escaping.

 Marvel has done well with storylines about Racism (Black Panther, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) and Sexism (Captain Marvel, and Black Widow) But with Moon Knight, they have the chance to tell a story about the fight against antisemitism, and I hope they will tell this story either next week, or in a future Moon Knight project. But for now, I’m happy we have our first canonically Jewish character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  

About the Author
Nitza Goldman is a 22 -year-old Jew from Las Vegas, Nevada who spent two years learning at Midreshet Amudim, before making Aliyah. She is currently at Bar Ilan University studying Jewish Art.
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