As a Jew, I love discovering and proudly announcing which celebrities join me each year in lighting the menorah. It isn’t often that our kind grace the silver screen in a big mainstream manner, so anytime Scarlett Johansson or Jake Gyllenhaal pop up, my friends know to expect an all-knowing spiel from me regarding their ancestry.
This yearning for representation and acknowledgement, buried deep beneath a millennia of historical persecution, extends to fictional characters as well. Despite his evil deeds, I can’t help but sympathize with Magneto, who was a Holocaust survivor long before he became the arch nemesis of the X-Men. Though never a big fan of the Fantastic Four, I was thrilled to see The Thing rock a kippah and a tallis at his wedding earlier this year. As a people, we haven’t had much of a blockbuster pop culture footprint, so additions to the growing list are always welcomed.
That’s why I must extend a hearty shout-out to Vulture’s Abraham Riesman, who noticed a key detail about Jake Johnson’s Peter B. Parker in the positively fantastic Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a moment I missed that hints at the character’s potential religious roots.
The movie—which, to reiterate, is great—brings together Spider-People from all different dimensions to help the fresh-faced wall-crawler and main character Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore). One of these Spidey-folks is Peter B. Parker, an aging vigilante who has grown jaded in his career as a hero as his personal life has fallen apart. During a montage recapping his life, we quickly witness him marrying comics sweetheart Mary Jane Watson as he stomps a glass wrapped in cloth, which any Jew will recognize as a longstanding Hebrew custom that dates back to the writing of the Talmud way back in 500 CE.
Hold the phone—is Peter B. Parker Jewish? The short answer: He’s Jewish enough that I’m absolutely adding him to the list.
“I happen to have a personal conviction, for many reasons, that Peter B. Parker is likely Jewish,” co-director Rodney Rothman told Riesman. “Personally, I grew up in Forest Hills, Queens”— Parker’s neighborhood—“and I’m Jewish, so maybe I’m just projecting.”
I know my fellow members of the tribe are leaping with joy right now (and we’re not exactly known for our leaping capabilities). However, there is a caveat here we must first accept.
“I will say, because this is an alternate universe, we just don’t know,” Rothman added. “It could be that Buddhists step on glass. It could be that M.J. is Jewish and Peter converted…” Still, that millisecond of footage had a purpose.
“I had my own personal theory and I was a real loudmouth about it,” Rothman said. “I was mainly just messing with people, but I would say, ‘You know Spider-Man is Jewish, right?’ I was like, ‘His name is ‘Spider-Man,’ just for starters.” When he said this, Rothman pronounced it as “Spiderm’n,” as one would with many Ashkenazi Jewish surnames—like Rothman, for example.
Alternate universe or not, we’re claiming Peter B. Parker as one of our own and throwing a party. Just don’t expect us to drink any manischewitz wine at it.