Jews in the News: Jesse Eisenberg, Judd Apatow and Merrick Gardland

Two “Kosher” Superheroes; Two “Kosher” Supervillians

Opening on Friday, March 25, is the blockbuster action film, “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” No doubt, the late BOB KANE, who created Batman, and the late JERRY SIEGEL and JOE SCHUSTER, who created Superman, would be surprised to see the duo at odds. However, an iconic superhero showdown is a novel twist and we’ll see how well it’s done. The film opens with Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) in a funk as they ponder the casualties of crime-fighting and the proper use of super powers.  Enter Lex Luthor (JESSE EISENBERG, 32), a billionaire sociopath who plays on their anxieties and then orchestrates a mass murder aimed at turning the super-hero duo against each other.

“Batman v. Superman” features the first appearance of super-hero Wonder Woman in a major movie and the Jewish press has long kvelled about the casting of Israeli actress GAL GADOT, 30 (“Fast and Furious”) as Wonder Woman. The news gets better: Wonder Woman is, indeed, a major character in the film and will re-appear in future “DC Extended Universe” films. Also appearing in a brief scene is EZRA MILLER, 23, as the Flash. It seems likely that Miller (as the Flash) will have a much bigger role in the “Extended Universe” films to come.

Luthor, by the way, has another weapon up his sleeve: He uses some Kryptonian relics (including body parts from a Kryptonian villain) to cook up a giant mutant Frankenstein-type monster, called Doomsday. There is no clear evidence that Mary Shelley, who wrote the 1818 novel, “Frankenstein,” was inspired by the Jewish legend of the golem: a soulless, but powerful artificial creature brought to life though magic (in some versions, invoking God’s name). However, there is another direct line from the golem legend to Doomsday. The most famous golem was the one supposedly created by Rabbi JUDAH LOEW (1513-1609) of Prague. He did so to protect Jews from attacks by non-Jews.  In all versions of the Lowe/ golem story, Rabbi Loew disables the golem after he protects Jews, but kills innocents in doing so. Moving ahead in time, there’s the classic silent German film, “The Golem” (1915), about the re-discovery in modern times of a golem created by a rabbi (modeled on Loew) some four centuries before. (This film was co-directed, and co-written, by its star actors: HENRIK GALEEN and Paul Wegener). “The Golem” clearly influenced the classic 1930s “Frankenstein” films directed by James Whale and Whale’s films, much more than the Shelley novel, have inspired and informed later “Frankenstein-like” film creatures, including, I expect, Doomsday.

Coming Straight into Your Home

On March 18, Netflix began streaming a new Pee-Wee Herman film, “Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday.” Herman, of course, is the famous character played by (and created by) PAUL REUBENS, 63 (who was born Paul Rubenfeld). A big star in the ‘80s, Reubens’ career was derailed by a 1991 sex scandal that seems almost quaint today in light of much more serious celeb scandals, like Bill Cosby’s. He revived the Pee Wee Herman character in 2009 and his stage appearances as Pee Wee have been popular and acclaimed. “Holiday”, produced by JUDD APATOW, 48, has good advance buzz and it works, in part, because Reubens has aged well, and Pee Wee’s age was never specified—so even at 63, you can accept Reubens in his signature role.  The plot has Herman leaving his hometown of Fairville and going on the first vacation of his life. He’s traveling to New York to celebrate his friend Joe's birthday party. Along the way, he gets caught up in wacky hijinks. By the way, Reuben’s late father served in the British and American air forces during WWII and was one of the courageous Diaspora Jews who flew rickety planes during Israel’s War of Independence and were critical to Israel’s survival.

Merrick Garland Sidelight

Not well known is the fact that long-serving Iowa governor Terry Branstad, a Republican, and a very big Israel supporter, is the son of a Jewish mother (who became a Lutheran) and a Lutheran father. Less well known is the fact that he’s a second cousin of Supreme Court nominee MERRICK GARLAND, 63.  Garland’s late father, an Iowa native, and Branstad’s late mother, were cousins.  Branstad did support Garland’s appointment to the federal bench in 1997. However, he is now deferring to the decision of Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley, the head of the Judiciary Committee, not to hold confirmation hearings. This must be a bit awkward for Branstad, who met Judge Garland for the first time about a month ago when they had breakfast together in Washington.


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