The Hebrew Hammer
is not just a hilarious romp or a Jewish take on the classic "black-sploitation" films of the 1970s: Hammer follows in the ancient tradition of a powerless people asserting its dignity through art. Written and directed by the 28-year-old Jonathan Kesselman
, (read text from live chat Nov. 9th
) the movie is layered with symbolism.
In Hammer, Mordechai Jefferson Carver, known around the world as the famous Hebrew Hammer, and his smart, sexy girlfriend Esther Bloomenbergensteinthal, join together with the African-American Kwanzaa Liberation Front to save Chanukah from an evil, destructive Santa.
Kesselman does not disguise the seriousness behind the satire. The Hebrew Hammer Web site explains: "By creating 'The Hebrew Hammer,' [Kesselman] has brought to life a character rarely seen in Hollywood or off-Hollywood films: a sexy and powerful Jewish action hero.
"Just as such indelible films as Melvin Van Peebles' 'Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song' and Gordon Parks' 'Shaft' were reactions to Hollywood's inability or unwillingness to portray strong, sexy Black characters in the early 70s, Kesselman's 'Hammer' is his way of creating a new hero for a new generation."
It is no coincidence that the protagonists of Hammer are named Mordechai and Esther. Nor is it accidental that one of the definitions of the Greek word Maccabee is hammer.
In fact, as the linked essay "The Hebrew Hammer: A Golem for Our Time?" points out, there is an ancient tradition of Jews creating superheroes to vanquish their enemies.
Hillel's Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Learning has collected for your perusal classic resources that shed light on the tradition's of Chanukah, a holiday that highlights women warriors, the solstice, and issues of war and peace. Please review these sources and some exciting program ideas that will surely 'enlighten' your campus community.
Hebrew Hammer Resources:
Glossary of Terms
The Hebrew Hammer: A Golem for Our Time?
Hebrew Soul Food Recipes
Q&A from Hillel's Live Chat with Jonathan Kesselman
A Love Letter to Being Jewish: a student interview with Jonathan Kesselman
Chanukah program ideas from other Jewish sources
Judith: A Chanukah Heroine