Spider-Man Celebrates Rosh Hashanah in This Disney Show – Kveller
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Spider-Man Celebrates Rosh Hashanah in This Disney Show

Jewish superhero The Thing helps Spider-Man save Rosh Hashanah in an episode of "Marvel's Spidey and his Amazing Friends."


via YouTube

It is rare to see Jewish holidays in popular culture, with the exception of Hanukkah, and that’s mostly because of its proximity to Christmas. When it comes to the High Holidays, Yom Kippur tends to get more screen time than Rosh Hashanah, probably because fasting lends itself to drama. So it’s especially exciting that the Jewish New Year is getting some love in Disney’s “Marvel’s Spidey and his Amazing Friends” with a Rosh Hashanah episode titled “An UnBEElievable Rosh Hashanah.” The episode airs on the morning of Friday, September 15, just in time for the holiday which starts that evening.

For those who aren’t familiar with “Marvel’s Spidey and his Amazing Friends,” it’s the first full-length Marvel series for preschoolers, and in it, three of Spider-Man’s alter egos — Peter Parker, Gwen Stacy and Miles Morales — team up with superheroes such as Iron Man, Hulk, Ms. Marvel and Black Panther to stop villains including Rhino, Doc Ock and Green Goblin. Though the show is geared towards preschoolers, there are reasons to tune in even if your kids are older. Adults (I may be talking about myself here) have been known to rock out to the catchy theme song by Patrick Stump, lead singer of Fall Out Boy. Now in its second season, the show is bringing on even more iconic Marvel characters, including, in the Rosh Hashanah episode, The Thing aka Ben Grimm.

Ben Grimm first appeared in 1961, in “The Fantastic Four #1.” Grimm, a pilot, received his powers, along with the other members of the Fantastic Four, during an experimental space flight that exposed him to cosmic rays. He became The Thing, a nearly indestructible monster with superhuman strength. Unlike the other members of the Fantastic Four, he cannot hide his powers or go back to his human form. The Fantastic Four was created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, both Jewish, and like many superheroes with Jewish creators, Ben Grimm could be read as Jewish, but his Jewish identity wasn’t explicitly revealed until more than 40 years after his creation, in 2002, in the comic book issue “Fantastic Four #56 Remembrance of Things Past.” In that issue, Grimm recites the Shema over a dying pawn shop owner he knew as a boy. He survives, and tells Grimm that he thought he was ashamed of being Jewish. Grimm says he isn’t ashamed, but he doesn’t speak about being Jewish because he doesn’t want people to think that all Jews were monsters. 

This powerful Jewish backstory was not included in any of the big-screen Fantastic Four adaptations, in 2005 and 2007, when he was played by Michael Chiklis, or in the 2015 reboot, when Jamie Bell stepped into the role. With the exception of Magneto in the X-Men films, Marvel movies rarely show their Jewish characters’ roots, and in the case of Magneto, it’s in relation to the Holocaust. So the fact that “Marvel’s Spidey and his Amazing Friends” is devoting an episode to Rosh Hashanah is quite a win. 

In the episode, Gobby (as they call Green Goblin) steals all the bees and The Thing has to help Team Spidey get the bees back and save Rosh Hashanah. 

In one scene, The Thing wears a yarmulke as he eats Rosh Hashanah dinner, including apples and honey, of course, at the friendly neighborhood community center where people from different backgrounds celebrate each other. Ari and his dad, Mr. Rosenberg, were invited by The Thing to spend Rosh Hashanah with him, and they tell him that he made the community proud. 

Since the depiction of Jewish characters in Marvel film and television often has to do with grief and pain — Magneto in a concentration camp, Marc Spector/Moon Knight sitting shiva — it’s moving to see this scene of Jewish joy, especially for a character with as sad a story as The Thing.

There is yet another Fantastic Four movie in the works and rumor has it that they are looking for a Jewish actor to play The Thing. Until that happens, we can’t wait to watch the rest of the episode and to see how else The Thing’s Jewish identity might be shown in the rest of this season of “Marvel’s Spidey and his Amazing Friends.”

“An UnBEElievable Rosh Hashanah” airs on Friday, September 15 at 8:30 a.m. EDT/PDT on Disney Channel and 1:00 p.m. EDT/PDT on Disney Junior.

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