Celebrity Jews

Spidey goes for matzah ball soup

Andrew Garfield

“The Amazing Spider-Man,” which opened July 3, is a huge box-office hit and the reviews have been mostly positive. Almost every critic has noted that stars Andrew Garfield, 28, and Emma Stone, 23 (Spidey’s love interest) have real chemistry. Garfield was born in Los Angeles and raised in England. His father’s father, Samuel Garfinkel, grew up in London, the son of Polish-born Jews. He wed Andrew’s Jewish grandmother in a U.K. synagogue in 1933. They moved to the States around 1945, and Samuel changed his last name sometime after coming to America. Andrew’s father, Richard, was born in the United States in 1950.

 Andrew’s mother, Linda, was born in England. It isn’t clear whether she is Jewish. The actor has called himself Jewish in interviews, but hasn’t mentioned anything about a religious education. In a recent interview, he did say that he eats matzah ball soup every day he’s in New York.


Another ‘souper-hero’

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

On a related note, press materials for Larry Tye’s new book “Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero” say: “Seventy-five years after he came to life, Superman remains one of America’s most adored and enduring heroes. Now … the bestselling author of ‘Satchel’ has written the first full-fledged history not just of the Man of Steel but of the creators, designers, owners, and performers who made him the icon he is today.” Tye’s other works include “Home Lands,” a book of essays about the new Jewish diaspora.

Tye, 41, recently appeared on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” Host Terry Gross asked about Superman’s Jewish roots, noting that Jerry Siegel, “Superman’s” original writer and co-creator (with illustrator Joe Shuster), was Jewish. Tye replied: “Jerry called his character, as he came down from Krypton, ‘Kal-El,’ which [means] ‘a vessel of God’ in Hebrew. So we have this character coming down, being put down in space by his parents to try and save him, and being rescued by two gentiles in the middle of the Midwest… If that’s not the story of Exodus and Moses, then I’ve never seen that story told well. This was a time when we were on the eve of World War II, and the Nazis were on the brink of coming to power in Germany. … I think this idea of this baby being rescued was a sense of what was going on in Europe, where Jerry’s ancestors had come from. … And it’s a rule of thumb that when a name ends in m-a-n, the person whose name that is, they’re either a superhero or Jewish or both.”

Gross laughed at the “m-a-n” comment and proceeded to pronounce a couple of superhero names as if they were Jewish last names — and I laughed, too. Try it yourself: Say the superhero’s name like this: “Souper-man.” Sounds like a Jewish last name, nu? Or pronounce Spider-Man like Gross did: “Spy-der-min.” In an instant the name ceases to be a superhero’s and sounds like any name on a synagogue membership roster.

Opening on July 20 is “The Dark Knight Rises,” the third Batman film starring Christian Bale in the title role. Like Superman, Batman had a Jewish creator (Bob Kane). Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 30, co-stars as a Gotham City police officer. Gordon-Levitt first became known playing a space alien who pretended to be a Jewish human (“Tommy Solomon”) in the hit TV show “3rd Rock from the Sun.” In a sense, this plot line was an inversion of the Superman story.


Track this

The PBS series “History Detectives” begins its 10th season on Tuesday, July 17 at 10 p.m. If you haven’t seen this entertaining show — you really should — it’s a much smarter version of the dumbed-down semi-imitators on cable (like “Pawn Stars”). Antique experts and academics track down the true stories behind objects. One of the segments on the July 17 episode concerns a guitar that may have belonged to Bob Dylan.

Columnist Nate Bloom, an Oaklander, can be reached at [email protected].

Nate Bloom

Nate Bloom writes the "Celebrity Jews" column for J.