Who is the world’s most famous man? In Is Superman Circumcised? The Complete Jewish History of the World’s Greatest Superhero (2021), author Roy Schwartz tells us that it is, in fact, Superman. Schwartz, a friendly person who likes using words such as “swell” in casual conversation, has made a threefold contribution to the study of Superman. First, this book traces Superman’s career from 1939 through modern times, whereas previous works have only examined Superman through his “Golden Age”–which ends at about 1945. Second, and most fascinating (in my opinion), this book explores the Jewish parallels–theological, folkloric, historical, and sociological–within Superman lore. Third, Schwartz maintains that his book is the first to focus exclusively on Superman.

Although Superman himself was born from the imaginations of Jewish teenagers Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1933, the roots of the superhero tradition are ancient. What distinguishes Superman as a uniquely Jewish figure–as opposed to belonging to other world mythologies and religions–is the characteristics of Jewish heroes being born into crisis and living as exiles and immigrants. Additionally, while other world mythologies feature heroes whose feats are otherworldly in nature, Jewish Biblical and mythological heroes perform heroism grounded in human reality. Schwartz draws parallels between Superman and stories of Moses and Samson, as well as golem lore. While Schwartz acknowledges Christian parallels and efforts to claim Superman as a Christ figure, he argues that the theological parallels between Christ and Superman are a good deal weaker than the traditional Jewish parallels.

Schwartz’s historical and sociological tracing of Superman connects Superman’s development to the Jewish immigration wave between 1881 and 1924, the Jewish contributions to the making of Hollywood and comics, and Superman’s role in the formation of American psychology during the wars of the last century. More than merely detailing facts and events, Schwartz artfully explains the philosophical value of Superman as a product of the Jewish experience in America and Western Europe. As a champion of the marginalized and a terror to bullies, as well as someone whose lived experience reflects the collective experience of the Jewish people, Superman is someone to whom Jewish adults and children alike can identify with.

This book far exceeded my expectations. Far from being another dry compilation of facts and events, Is Superman Circumcised? is readable in the best way. As someone who has studied America’s political and religious landscape from an academic angle, this book was of particular interest to me personally. It is a great book for anyone interested in the intersection of history and folklore and wants to revisit Superman with new eyes and a fresh appreciation.

Is Superman Circumcised? The Complete Jewish History of the World’s Greatest Superhero











  • Writer: Roy Schwartz
  • Publisher: McFarland
  • Year: 2021
  • Page Count: 363
Muriel Truax

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