There's quite a bit of material on the Web discussing Jews and Star Trek -- much of it repetitious. Just about every page on Leonard Nimoy mentions the Vulcan Salute and its origins in Jewish ritual, as well as his ideas about social justice (a Jewish value) on Star Trek. Second in line for number of hits are pages debating whether or not the Ferengi are supposed to represent Jews (NOT!) Since the new movie came out, there have been several Jewish Trek articles discussing whether the Jewish subtexts of the old universe are going to get lost in the re-boot. On this page I have tried to present the best of what I found in Jewish Trek articles, without too much duplication.
The Star Trek Tree Trek kabbalah? Indeed! This site is not all that new, but I just found it, so it's new to this link launcher. Trekker Colin Low diagrams crewmembers of the Enterprise-D on the Kabbalistic Tree. For those of you who are visual learners, scroll down to the bottom first to see the Tree with full-color pix, then go back and read his interesting explanations.)
Ten Commandments in Star Trek
Paul Asay on BeliefNet, posted October 19, 2009.
A very nice article that pairs each of the Ten Commandments
with a Trek episode that illustrates that particular commandment.
Good resource for Bible/Torah study
classes, or just
plain fun to read!
Star Trek, The Star Trekker Rebbe, and a Question of Destiny by Dodi-Lee Hecht presents a review of the new movie, stories about her father, Rabbi Ben Hecht -- known as the Star Trekker Rebbe -- who weaves Trek lore into his sermons, and an interesting idea: Founding the Starfleet Yeshiva, where people will write Jewish lessons based on various episodes!
Jew Trek is a blog essay on Jewcy.com, by Mordechai Shinefeld. He discusses the Jewishness of the classic Vulcans (among other things) and the apparent lack thereof in the new movie's portrayal of Spock and other original characters. Will the Jewish subtexts be lost in the new timeline?
Star Trek's ex-chief movie praise -- Herb Solow reacts to the new movie. Not a "Jewish " essay per se, except for the fact that Solow is Jewish and, as he tells us in this article, he commissioned the show and had a lot of input in the development of the series -- which supports my theory about how Jewish themes were slipped in. "In the years 1964 and 1965," Solow explains in this article, "the Star Trek world consisted of but two people: Gene Roddenberry and myself. It was a very small world." Roddenberry came to Solow with a single page of ideas and together they fleshed it out. Did he like the new movie? Yes - with some reservations...
Kirk's Challenge: To Make A Difference (on Patheos.com, May 25, 2009) -- Essay by Rabbi Gershom comparing the early life of Captain Kirk with the story of the biblical Jacob. Both start out as less than admirable characters, both are challenged to do better and make a difference in the world.
The Jewish Origin of the Vulcan Salute by Rabbi Gershom (webmaster of this link list.) After reading so many incomplete refs to this topic all over the Net, I decided to post my own in-depth explanation (which is also included in my book, Jewish Themes in Star Trek.) Read the Trek history of the salute, the Jewish history and meaning of the Blessing gesture it is based on, etc. There's also a diagram of how the hand forms the Hebrew letter Shin when you make the salute. (Nimoy has mentioned this many times, including in the video mentioned above, but, if you don't know Hebrew, you need a visual, right?)
JUF Tweens: Star Trek is a page from the Jewish United Fund (JUF) of Chicago, specifically aimed at Jewish tweens. It gives a nice rundown of Jewish actors and charcters in various Star Trek series & movies. An easy-to-read introduction to Trek for the younger generation.
Star Trek: Social Revolution and Jewish Thought -- Matthue Roth of MyJewishLearning.com imagines a dream-team synagogue made up of movie and TV characters. Kirk as chazzan? Spock as rabbi? A fun romp where you learn, among other things, that Shatner celebrates Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner with his family on Friday nights. However, there is a typo where Roddenberry supposedly gave an interview in 1994 -- unless it was a seance, that's impossible, but we'll blame it on the Universal Translator.
Spock brought "Neshamah" to Star Trek Role
(Canadian Jewish News, September
24, 2008.) "Neshamah" means "soul" in Hebrew. This
article reports on an appearance by Leonard Nimoy in Montreal,
talked about the Vulcan salute (of course!) plus some personal
reflections on other Jewish values in the Star Trek series:
"“People often ask if Judaism was part of Star
Trek,” he said. “The answer is definitely yes.
Education is a Jewish value, and all of the members of the Starship Enterprise
were highly educated, and so are individual dignity and social justice,
which were a big deal in Star Trek. As a Jew, I had a strong
sense of comfort with the series. I felt at home.”
also material about his family, childhood, and acting careeer -- with a
photo of him putting on a prayer shawl.
Bennett on Jewish Roots and Trek Transformation (Trek Today, posted November 12, 2006 by "Michelle"). A summary of a talk by Harve Bennett to an Israeli fan group, revealing, among other things, that Harve Bennett was born Chaim Fishman (yes, he is Jewish.) He talked about screening Star Trek VI in Tel Aviv and Moscow, and the influence of his Jewish upbringing on his contributions to Trek.
Rabbi Takes Unorthodox Trek by Elisha Sauers was published in Jewish Daily Forward (April 20, 2007). It's about me and my book, Jewish Themes in Star Trek, back when I was looking for a publisher. Although a bit outdated now, the comments are still interesting. Plus, the article was cited on STARTREK.COM -- a nice warm fuzzy, but neither article helped me find a publisher (sigh). Mostly I include it here as an example of the widespread claim that Roddenberry was Jewish -- which is WRONG. He was born a Southern Baptist, later became a secular humanist. (You will note that I added a comment debunking this urban legend.)
Astronaut lifted nation's spirits from the Jerusalem Post (January 22, 2003), is the text of a transmission by Ilan Ramon to Israel from space, telling the story of the miniature Torah scroll he took with him aboard the space shuttle Columbia. It's not really a Star Trek article, but I thought it belongs here, because it's about a Jew in space. (Plus, the book Jewish Themes in Star Trek is dedicated to his memory.) Look very carefully at this accompanying photo (see left)<<-- I was amazed at how tiny the scroll was. That's Ramon's hand holding that Torah. (See the article for the entire photo.)
5 Jewish Astronauts who brought their Judaica into Space is exactly what the title says. Bet you didn't know there were that many Jewish astronauts, did you? (Why isn't Judith Resnik on this list? Because although she was the first Jew in space (1984), she did not practice Judaism and disliked being called "the first Jewish astronaut." And she never took anything specifically Jewish with her on her missions.)
Me Up, Scotty! from the Arts
section of The Jewish Journal
of Greater Los Angeles discusses
a performance of the Chanukkah story that Leonard Nimoy narrated for
the Western Wind Vocal Ensemble on December 14, 2004. And of course,
Nimoy also discusses the origins of the Vulcan salute. (For those who
are not Jewish, "Bimah Me Up" is not bad Italian, it's a pun on Hebrew.
is a synagogue pulpit.) You can buy a CD of an earlier 2002 performance
of this program with Nimoy and the Wind Ensemble, Chanukkah
in Story and Song on Amazon.com.
Check out this "Shalom Hand" jewelry in a variety of styles (necklaces,
pins, tie clips, etc.) exclusive original design from Dor L'Dor,
(from generation to generation). Dor L'Dor is an educational resource
center which creates learning materials for special needs Jewish
children. Their Shalom Hand design not only is like the Vulcan salute,
it also spells out "Shalom" (peace) in Hebrew letters. And it comes in
either left or right hand versions! Click
here to go directly to their
Blessing Hands jewelry page.
Sum of His Parts: A good word about the evil inclination
by David Holzel explores the TOS episode, "The Enemy Within" in light
of Jewish teachings about the yetzer
ha-ra (evil inclination) and the
(good inclination), and how we need BOTH to be complete beings.
Spock's Spectacular Voyage by Robert Leiter of The Jewish World Review relates how, for many years, Leonard Nimoy had refused to go to Trek conventions in Germany because of the country's Nazi past. (He is not alone in this --many Jews still refuse to set foot on German soil.) In 1999 he finally did go to a convention -- and came face-to-face with his own prejudices. Could this really be a new Germany? he asks himself...
Highly Offensive Ferengi: Racial Issues and Star Trek's Multicultural Deep Space Nine in Film -- There are tons of sites all over the net which discuss whether or not the Ferengi are based on antisemitic stereotypes. This article is among the best. In-depth and well-researched (footnotes even!), it not only explores the Ferengi, but discusses several other Trek races as well.
At last, a Star Trek character admits she's Jewish... is Rabbi Gershom's Amazon review of the Trek novel Well of Souls, which features a Jewish character, Darya Bat-Levi. In this review, he analyzes the accuracy (?) of her ideas about Jewish theology and the afterlife as presented in a four-page section of the book.
Trek-cochavim is the Internet's oldest Jewish Star Trek listserv discussion group. Their name means "Star Trek" in Hebrew. Not to worry -- the list itself is in English. It's unmoderated, with hot-and-heavy debate in the Talmudic tradition, so wear a flak jacket if you are sensitive to flames. Or you can just search their archives.
TrekJews Newsletter on Yahoo
Groups is Rabbi Gershom's Yahoo Group for trekjews.com.
Come nitpick his book, Jewish
Themes in Star Trek, or
discuss anything else related to
Judaism and Trek.
Star Trek novels with (maybe) Jewish characters is a Listmania list on Amazon.com, created by Rabbi Gershom. Each listing has a short comment identifying the Jew(s) in the novel.
The Search for Jews in Outer Space Continues by Jonathan S. Tobin (executive editor of the Jewish Exponent was first published right before Star Wars Phantom Menace hit the theaters. The article discusses the lack of Jews in SF movies and TV shows (including Star Trek) and the question of whether this is deliberate antisemitism, or are Jews reading too much into it?
Human Names in Star Trek lists all the last names of Human Trek characters so far, with the complaint that the vast majority are British/Irish and that this does not reflect the population of Earth. However, the compiler mis-guessed "Kaplan," which he classifies as "uncertain origin" when I know darned well that Kaplan is a Jewish name! Green can also be a Jewish name -- for example Arthur Green, a major Jewish theologian. Not to mention that David Ben-Gurion's last name was originally Green. Still, it's a good place to guess who might be Jewish.
He said, She said: The search for God on Star Trek by Steve Johnson and Michelle Erica Green is a sort of dialogue betwen two writers about the lack of any religious references in much of science fiction (Star Trek included), the pervasiveness of cultural stereotypes when Jews and Catholics are portrayed anywhere on TV, etc. A bit of a rant in places, but well worth reading. And, yes, Ms. Green is Jewish (see my comment about names in the entry above this one).
Religion in Star Trek is a page with a list of religious references -- alien and Human -- in Trek episodes. As complete as I found anywhere on the Net -- good job!
Disappointingly, Jewishsf.com is not a science fiction site. (sigh) The SF in their domain name stands for San Francisco. It's a general Jewish site that may have occasional SF articles (which is how I found it in a Google search). You can search their archives.
Rabbi Yonassan Gershom
author of "Jewish Themes in Star Trek"
Visit the TrekJews.com homepage