Wonder Woman: Heroism Among the (Jewish) Stars

By Steven Eisenpreis
Temple Emanu-El Member

Many of the world’s beloved superheroes can be attributed to Jewish writers and artists. Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; Batman was created by Robert Caan (Bob Kane); Captain America and many others were created by Joe Simon and Jacob Kurtzberg (Jack Kirby) and, of course, the Fantastic Four and the rest of the Marvel Universe were created by Stanley Martin Lieber (Stan Lee). Yet these early comic book stories were mostly told from a male perspective, although these heroes’ (and their creators’) intentions were noble – fighting a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and a better tomorrow, seeking revenge on the underworld. For example, one of Superman’s earliest lines was, “You’re not fighting a woman now!” Men were characterized as having agency, while women were often portrayed as damsels in distress waiting for Prince Charming to swoop in and save the day.

However, this dynamic changed in 1941 when Dr. William Moulton Marston created Princess Diana, the daughter of Hippolyta, Queen of Paradise Island, charged with the duty of returning USAF pilot Steve Trevor to America, where she would lead the fight for democracy and womanhood as Wonder Woman.

Before Wonder Woman made her dramatic debut, Jewish scripture was populated by women of great intellectual strength and a commitment to freedom. The closest thing the Torah has to the original “Fantastic Four” is its matriarchs: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah, who provided comfort to those in need, and handled squabbles between brothers with aplomb. Miriam helped her brother Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt, and Esther showed nobility and grace as she saved the Jews of Persia from Haman’s evil clutches.

As time went on, Wonder Woman influenced generations of little girls, including Gloria Steinem, who fought to level the playing field and reduce the glass ceiling to shards. It is not known if Barbra Streisand looked up to Diana as a champion, but she has shown the persistence for which Wonder Woman is also well-noted. Like the character played on TV for seven years by Lynda Carter, ESPN SportsCenter anchor Linda Cohn has proven that she can play with the big boys with her award-winning coverage of NHL hockey (Let’s Go Rangers!) and Major League Baseball (Let’s Go Mets!).

Of course, one Jewish woman of note who has been inspired by Wonder Woman is the former Miss Israel and IDF soldier who played her on film in 2017 and 2020, Gal Gadot. While Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins and screenwriter Allan Heinberg credited the classic stories by comic book virtuosi such as Marston, Robert Kanigher, Denny O’Neil, Roy Thomas, the recently departed George Perez, and two friends who were influenced by the lively comics writers of the 1960s, Len Wein and Marv Wolfman, as well as Lynda Carter’s portrayal, as major influences – Gadot confessed to DC Comics Editorial that that she wasn’t exactly a big comic book fan growing up and was too young to have watched Carter on TV. Yet, she knew that Wonder Woman was part of the DC Trinity and she educated herself to study both the character and her motivation for both films.

While Wonder Woman has been known for her great physical strength, her even greater strengths are her wisdom, patience, and desire for peace, which, come to think of it, are not too different from Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah: For a Greek princess, Wonder Woman seems like the ideal Jewish woman.

Gal Gadot zooms into action as the one and only Wonder Woman on Tuesday, August 23 at 8:00 PM as part of the Streicker Center’s Movies Under the Stars. Click here for more information.

Wonder Woman and all related characters and elements are trademarks and copyright DC Comics, all rights reserved.

Steven Eisenpreis currently leads the Gather Sports Fan Group. Click here to learn more.