15 Aug FUN QUESTIONS WITH THE “COMIC BOOK RABBI” RABBI SIMCHA WEINSTEIN
Rabbi Simcha Weinstein, the “Comic Book Rabbi” is a best-selling author and speaker. He has appeared on CNN Showbiz Tonight and NPR, and has been pro-
filed in leading publications, including The New York Times, The Miami Herald and The London Guardian.He is a contributor to The Jerusalem Post, The Royal
Shakespeare Company, Condé Nast and other publications. He chairs the Religious Affairs Committee at Pratt Institute. He was voted New York’s Hippest Rabbi,
by PBS Channel 13. Rabbi Simcha is an English author and a rav from Mill Basin. In 2006, his first book, Up Up and Oy Vey: How Jewish History, Culture and
Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero, was published. In 2008, his second book, Shtick Shift: Jewish Humor in the 21st Century, was published.
What is your favorite comic?
My favorite comic is Spiderman because he’s a teenager and he has a nebbish,
nerdy alter-ego, but on the inside he’s capable of tremendous chesed,
tremendous miracles and he also has a lot of guilt, which is very Jewish.
Which comic would you say has the best middos?
I would say my book about comics has the best middos, firstly. Secondly, I think
we have to go to Superman who stands for truth, justice and the American way.
How did you become “The Comic Book Rabbi?
I became “The Comic Book Rabbi” because as the Rabbi of Pratt Institute I was
trying all of the Chabad tefillin and students would say to me Rabbi Simcha
you’re a funny guy, but this is art school you gotta make it relevant. I started
to talk about superheros. I was a baal teshuva. I grew up reading comics. I
knew there was a Jewish influence. I did not realize how deep it went. The book
started over conversations with students over copious bowls of chicken soup.
I wrote the book really as a way to connect with students and suddenly within
a week I’m on CNN and even the New York Times did a piece on the book and
it became a best seller and it’s really taken me around the world. It’s an honor
because I believe superhero values are Jewish values and I think you know
we see today all of the entertainment is connected with superheroes which
is a very Jewish concept because historically with jews, due to anti semitism
have had to mask their identity, their culture, their values. The creators of
superheroes themselves, many of them changed their names. Stan Lee was
born Stan Lee Leiber. One identity at home and another identity at work and I
think the message of the superheroes is we don’t have to mask behind nerdy,
nebbish alter-egos, we can reveal the inner “pintele yid” and be loud and be
proud and be a superhero just like everyone at Camp Kaylie, where we’re doing
this interview surrounded by superheroes.
Who is your favorite writer of comics?
Stan Lee. I had the honor to interview the great Stan Lee who wrote one of
the most famous lines in all comic book canon “With great power, comes great
responsibility.” Stan Lee asked me if that’s in the torah, it’s not, but I didn’t know
what to say to Stan Lee, so I said I think it may be in the midrash.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
The power to pay off my mortgage- that would be my superpower.
If you could be a fly on the wall and witness something in the history of
mankind, what would that be?
This is the serious part of the interview. I was never zoche to meet the
Lubavitcher Rebbe, as a Chabad chassid. I think yechidus with The Rebbe would
be something. I would like to just not be a fly on the wall, but I’d like to be
sitting in the chair in The Rebbe’s office.
3 Friday night dinner guests. Anyone from the beginning of time. Who would
you want to have sitting at your Shabbos table?
We’re going to put The Rebbe to one side because this is a fun question. I think
we would go Stan Lee, I think we would go Pep Guardiola the manager of
Manchester City Football Club, and I think yourself, the founder of The Country
Vues. We’re going to have a Chinese buffet and then we will do it in the Catskills.
Three dinner guests of comics:
Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and the creation Spiderman.