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The Jewish Side of Star Trek

The Jewish Side of Star Trek – Written by Elizabeth Finkel

One of the biggest debates in pop culture known by most would be “Is Star Trek or Star Wars better?”  It certainly doesn’t matter if you would rather see for the millionth time the Rebellion destroy the Death Star or the crew of the Enterprise destroy Khan and the Reliant, both sides to the argument can undoubtedly agree on one thing: Star Trek is more Jewish.

There is something to be understood about Star TrekStar Trek began to change culture one episode at a time.  In a problematic time in history, the show gave hope to its viewers of a stable society. The bridge crew, which was made up of men from the Midwest, the South, Scotland, Russia, Japan and an African American female, was totally unheard of at the time since most of the world was pitted against one another.  The cast of Star Trek helped to resolve the issues of the time by having everyone from everywhere work together, not to mention TV’s first interracial kiss.  One would wonder if Elijah the Prophet was watching.

Star Trek aired not even twenty five years after the end of the Holocaust.  One of the most notable episodes that dealt with the social issue head on as many were still trying to cope with the events that took place in Eastern Europe.  The episode, “Patterns of Force”, is centered round the planet Ekos, which adopted policies similar to those of the National Socialism.  The planet created to mimic the Third Reich was lead by a “Fuhrer”, referred to their neighbors (the Zeons) as “Zeonist pigs”, and implemented a “final decision” to exterminate the Zeons.  Of course, the day is saved by the crew of the USS Enterprise as they masqueraded in stolen Ekon uniforms, which parallels those of the Nazis.  The episode reflected the Nazism and had Ekons making statements such as “the most efficient society,” the German government believed the episode to be “unfit for entertainment” in Germany and was banned from broadcast until 1995.

When we were all bar and bat mitzvahs, we stood in front of our community as our rabbi gave us the priestly benediction.  The third line ending in, “v’yaseim l’cha shalom”, translates as “give peace to you.”  This one simple phrase set the basis for the Vulcan race.  Their greeting coming from these three words, “live long and prosper,” means exactly what it says “may peace and a long life be brought upon you.”  When giving the traditional Vulcan greeting, the right arm is raised, with the hand in a funky shape.  The late Leonard Nimoy, who was raised as an Orthodox Jew, took the line from the priestly benediction a step further.  When giving the benediction, the rabbi’s hands are in a shape that somewhat resembles the letter shin.  It is more than a coincidence that Nimoy chose this to hand sign to throw up when asked to make a sign that goes along with “live long and prosper”. In Orthodox Judaism, when the priestly benediction is recited, the eyes are covered by a tallit thrown over the head or by hands.  Nimoy wrote in a memoir:

“The special moment when the Kohanim blessed the assembly moved me deeply, for it possessed a great sense of magic and theatricality… I had heard that this indwelling Spirit of God was too powerful, too beautiful, too awesome for any mortal to look upon and survive, and so I obediently covered my face with my hands. But of course, I had to peek.”

Since Star Trek has so many Jewish themes, there are obviously many Jews within the franchise.  Most notably, Leonard Nimoy (Spock) and William Shatner (Captain Kirk) were and still are members of the tribe.  The lead writers of The Original Series (1966-1969), Bob Justman and Herb Solow are Jewish too (now it makes sense why Star Trek is so Jewish).  Other Jewish names in the world of Star Trek that are recognizable would be: Walter Koenig (Chekov, The Original Series), Brent Spiner (Data, The Next Generation), and  Armin Shimmerman (Quark, Deep Space Nine).

After fifty years of Star Trek, the franchise still holds tight to its Jewish roots.  Throughout thirteen movies as of this summer and eight TV series as of January 2017, Star Trek stays consistent with Jewish philosophy.  So the next time someone asks Star Trek or Star Wars, Star Trek will be a more appealing choice than you thought.  LLAP (Live Long And Prosper).