By Benny Winkelmann
While there is a tangible impact the P2G Partnership makes through Jasmine and me in each school, one of the places I am most able to achieve our goals is in the junior high where I teach. I teach lessons on topics like the Jewish influence on the comic book industry and why many of the heroes are secretly Jewish; good conforming assimilators with their Tzaddik (richteous) alter egos.
We ask the questions on why a character like Superman who has the power to become the supreme ruler of Earth chooses to don the guise of Clark Kent and only be Superman when he is needed. Is it perhaps his torah values?
Why do any of these heroes not fall prey to absolute power corrupting absolutely? Why are some of the only overtly Jewish characters – Ben Grimm aka The Thing (a working class child of the lower east side) in the Fantastic 4 and Magneto in the X-Men (an Auschwitz Survivor) monsters or villains?
Why did their creators put so much Jewish influence into the way they act and their worldviews, but still refrained from announcing their faiths? Not to give it away, but something that helps point to the answer is dual fold; the reason Jews worked in comics in the first place and the fact that many of them went from overt to covert in the comics 50-80 years later: antisemitism.
Superman, DC Comics “Big Blue Boy Scout,” who many know as the brainchild of 2 Jews from the lower East Side finally sits at a shabbat table in Action Comics #856. If any are interested in learning more about this topic feel free to reach out.
While in Israel, I also started a series of projects with my 7th, 8th, and 9th grade groups. They are doing an exercise in speaking, reading, and writing in English.
Each class got to choose their order and they blew me away with their creative abilities. Several of the classes have recently turned in amazing reports on books folks in my family so generously sent here for them to read. They had the option to present the book in a multitude of ways including remix a song, create a diorama, write a skit or scene you would have liked to see in the book, or do a ppt presentation.
One of them who read “Frindle” by Andrew Clements (a family favorite in my house) chose to do a business pitch slide deck and sell us on why the word for pen should be changed in the OED. Another read “The Old Man in the Sea” by Earnest Hemmingway and created a diorama he made out of clay and popsicle sticks depicting the sharks eating the giant fish the man had strapped to the side of the boat. Other classes of mine finished their writing project and turned in papers ranging from mystery stories to research essays.
On a personal level, I recently got to go on another hike with Nitzan my incredible guide who took me on a 13k trek through the snow in the Golan Heights at Mt. Hermon.
This is a rare experience in a desert nation that maybe gets snow in a tiny portion of itself every few years. While we didn’t reach the summit, the views were still spectacular and Nitzan was full of interesting facts about the ancient forts and historical battles fought in the area.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Ofer, my bourikas guy. Ofer runs the greatest food stand in Israel, on top of a mountain in Katzir, out of a shack that looks like the shed on the side of your house and a sukkah had a baby. He knows every customer by name and their order, including how much harif they take (spice level being a pride point here).
Many of the customers have his cell number (me included) and call ahead to ensure there will be enough to go around come lunch time as he is only there till the felafel and bourikas run out.
For those wondering, a bourikas is an egg, fried inside of a folded crunch. This, chummus, and assorted veggies fill the fresh pitas and it is all topped with tehina and harif.
This is my favorite meal of the week (I am only in the area once a week) and Ofer knows this, so when I once came too late to enjoy, he went home and made me one and brought it to me. He’s just that kind of guy, but then again, this is Israel.
To reach out to Benny, our Shaliach (emissary) to Israel from Richmond, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are a few more photos of Benny “about and around.”