The Black Hat Rabbi Who Goes To Comic-Con
A few months ago Jack Abramowitz suited up; though not in the black hat and jacket this New York-based rabbi often sports. No, on this sunny October morning, the rabbi’s getup was a bit more unusual. He was about to make a pilgrimage. One which some might consider a religious experience. But when Rabbi Abramowitz donned his green Power Rangers costume, mask and all, in preparation for Comic-Con, it was just for fun!
Abramowitz was not always a “black hatter” (“modern yeshivish,” as his wife puts it). His journey to observance began in fifth grade when his parents switched from Reform to an Orthodox shul after getting connected with the local Chabad. In eighth grade through NCSY, Abramowitz was inspired to transfer to a Jewish high school which led to a year in yeshiva in Israel post-high school, Yeshiva University, and going on to become a rabbi. When he’s not dressing like a green Power Ranger, Rabbi Abramowitz is the editor of Torah at OU.org, the JITC educational correspondent, and the author of five books, including The Taryag Companion and The Tzniyus Book.
His love of comic books began early in life. Always a voracious reader who was literate even before he entered school, Rabbi Abramowitz fell into the generational “sweet spot” of comic books. For many years, children were the prime comic book market, but by the time Abramowitz was in high school, comics appropriate for his age group started being published. He still enjoys reading comics, and considers them a medium, not a genre.
This past October was not his first “Con.” The rabbi began attending as a kid, then in college, and more regularly as an adult. Abramowitz’s motivation in going to Comic-Con is to meet writers and artists whose work he admires, get autographs, buy original art. So, is there a conflict between Orthodox Judaism and quirky interests like Comic-Con? Rabbi Abramowitz explained that with matters not against halacha, if something makes you feel happy or fulfilled, it is a good thing. When it’s a question of personal comfort and preferences, we each must decide if it’s something that will hinder us or be a positive force in our lives.
Abramowitz says that he knows who he is and brought his personality with him throughout his spiritual journey. While his observance level changed, it didn’t mean that many of his hobbies couldn’t remain. At the same time, Abramowitz recognizes that there are more insular communities that shun outside activities and influences even if they aren’t explicitly against Jewish law, and if someone is attracted to that approach, they may change aspects their personalities to conform to this view.
What about the flipside? Do Comi-Con devotees find an Orthodox rabbi kosher? Rabbi Abramowitz said he is more self-conscious about being the “Power Ranger rabbi” than anyone else there looking at him is. Comic-Con is a very open and accepting community, made up of people who are used to being on the outskirts of what is considered mainstream. Whatever race a person might be, it is not something they can hide or shake off. Abramowitz said for him, religion is the same; yes, he could remove his yarmulke, but it wouldn’t make him look any less Jewish. Everyone there would still see that he is an Orthodox Jew – and, by the way, he isn’t the only one!
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