It’s the #1 movie in the world right now and has broken many box-office records, and Spider-Man: No Way Home is continuing the series’ representation of Orthodox Jews in Peter Parker’s Queens, New York. Interestingly, the representation is not only of the Hasidic fair, as we usually seen in traditional media. There are modern Orthodox and Chabad references too in the following examples.
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin (@dbashideas) recently started a Twitter thread which went viral, highlighting the new hit movie’s showcasing of Yeshiva University, and a student wearing a yarmulke at Peter’s school. Soon, other users populated his thread with more imagery, including a cover of the Yiddish Forward (Forverts) bearing the headline “Is This Good for the Jews?” Further references to Orthodox Jewish depictions throughout the Spiderverse then surfaced, with user Yonatan Kurz (@yonatankurz) highlighting the Orthodox Jews in Spider-Man: Homecoming. While some of these depictions are questionable (extras with obviously glued-on payos) others are subtle and respectful (such as in PlayStation 4’s Spider-Man video game’s Shabbos “Easter Egg”). “It’s impossible to deny how fun it is to see and, especially the yarmulke, requires a real decision and that matters,” says Bashevkin.
Why are there so many Orthodox Jewish references throughout Spider-Man series? A comment from The Spider-Verse co-director Rodney Rothman may offer some insight. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is an animated feature that presents an alternate-universe version of Peter Parker, who is seen stepping on a glass in his wedding to MJ.
Rothman has said, “I happen to have a personal conviction, for many reasons, that Peter B. Parker is likely Jewish. Personally, I grew up in Forest Hills, Queens, and I’m Jewish, so maybe I’m just projecting.” Perhaps, Rothman and other Jewish executives are looking for visible ways to include a piece of their heritage in their beloved Spider-Man universe.
Here are several times in which Orthodox Jews (or their culture) appeared in Spider-Man’s world:
As identified by Dovid Bashevkin, these moments from the latest Spider-Man blockbuster Spider-Man: No Way Home are clear to see. Here, Yeshiva University’s Belfer Hall (one of its most iconic landmarks) is seen in the background of this shot, highlighting Spider-Man overlooking a panorama of New York. This shot was also used by Sony Pictures to celebrate the film’s critical acclaim.
Again in Spider-Man: No Way Home after Spider-Man’s identity as Peter Parker is revealed, a newscaster broadcasts from outside of Peter’s fictional Midtown High. One of Peter’s supportive schoolmates, shown in a yarmulke, can be seen in the background. Chanukah decorations were in a bakery later on in the film.
Marvel just released a new Spider-Man app to coincide with the release of No Way Home. It gives users the opportunity to view Peter Parker’s smartphone. His phone’s first camera reel is of a bodega newsstand, which shows him gracin the covers of both In Touch Weekly and Time Magazine. It also includes a copy of the Yiddish Forward (Forverts), showing Spider-Man and asking in Yiddish, “Is this good for the Jews?” The real-life staff of Forverts helped to format and translate the cover for Marvel Studios’ production arm.
In Spider-Man: Homecoming these screengrabs and the arrows highlighting them were found by Twitter user Yonatan Kurz. Here, Peter Parker’s fictional high school, Midtown High, has visibly Jewish students throughout its halls and in Peter’s classes. While the representation is nice, the costumes are not very authentic and you wouldn’t realistically find Hasidic Jews at public school.
In Spider-Man: Homecoming Peter’s neighborhood, a busy part of Queens, New York, features a Lubavitch-looking Hasidic Jew walking past Peter’s favorite local store. In crowd scenes, Orthodox Jews are visible throughout as well.
Also in Spider-Man: Homecoming there are more Hasidic Jews (authentic-looking ones too) in the background of this scene on a train with Peter Parker in the foreground. These Hasidim are wearing Bieber hats.
In Spider-Man 3 (courtesy of C. Bender) the last of the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies, this storyline wrapped up his character’s arc before it was readdressed with Andrew Garfield’s The Amazing Spider-Man. Here, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) can be seen standing with a group of local New York children. The boy who is closest to the front of the pack in the orange vest is a visibly Orthodox Jew.
Playstation 4’s “Spider-Man” video game is known for its incredibly detailed recreation of New York City and even features pedestrians and “extras” behind the action that are not just Orthodox in appearance, but in behavior. Embedded into the gameplay is a feature that makes them disappear when the game is played on Shabbos. One of the game’s senior programmers, Elan Ruskin confirmed that he added this Easter Egg, as observant Jews wouldn’t work on Shabbos…even in the background of a video game!