Is Oscar Isaac Jew? It was rumored that Marvel Studios was eying Jewish actors Daveed Diggs and Nick Kroll for the role of Marc Spector in Moon Knight. But it was later revealed that Oscar Isaac would be playing the Jewish superhero. A controversy arose, as fans took issue with Isaac only having a tangible connection to Judaism through his father, but even Isaac said he was raised in a “very Christian” household due to that same father.
So, fans have been left waiting anxiously to see how Marvel Studios will adapt the character into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Despite the actor not being Jewish himself, will they portray Moon Knight as Jewish or ignore his Judaism entirely?
The writer who solidified the obscure superhero as Jewish in the comics recently gave his thoughts about Isaac’s casting.
Is Oscar Isaac Jew?
Oscar Isaac is not Jewish. He was born in Guatemala to a Guatemalan mother and a Cuban father. His father’s surname is Isaac, which is a Jewish name, but Oscar Isaac does not identify as Jewish.
Oscar Isaac has said that he was raised in a “secular household” and that he does not have a strong connection to Judaism. However, he has also said that he is “open to exploring his Jewish roots”.
The casting of Oscar Isaac as Moon Knight, a Jewish character, has been met with some controversy. Some people have argued that a Jewish actor should have been cast in the role. Others have defended the casting, saying that Oscar Isaac is a talented actor who can bring the character to life regardless of his religious beliefs.
Ultimately, whether or not Oscar Isaac is the right actor to play Moon Knight is a matter of opinion. However, it is important to respect his decision not to identify as Jewish.
What is Oscar Isaac’s ethnicity?
Oscar is half Guatemalan from his mother, María Eugenia Estrada Nicolle, and half Cuban from his father, Óscar Gonzalo Hernández-Cano, who is a doctor.
The actors full name is Óscar Isaac Hernández Estrada, making him the third Oscar in his family, following his father and grandfather; the inspiration came from the Academy Awards. His grandfather was French in Guatemala and although the actor’s father is Cuban, he also grew up in the US.
The Moon Knight actor has two siblings: older sister Nicole Hernandez Hammer – who is a climate scientist – and a younger brother named Mike, who was previously a journalist at Miami New Times.
There’s been confusion over Oscar’s background since he’s played multiple ethnicities throughout his career, including John – King Of England – in Robin Hood, and José Ramos-Horta in 2009’s Balibo, who was Timorese.
Even Oscar noted that casting directors label him “ethnically ambiguous” and “according to them, I can play anything from a pharaoh to Timothée Chalamet’s daddy,” during his SNL gig on 5 March.
The MCU’s Moon Knight Is Not A Jewish Story
Oscar Isaac’s casting evades the pitfalls of other MCU casting controversies and broader concerns simply because Moon Knight isn’t telling a Jewish story that would suffer without culturally representative actors. The problem with many recent non-Jewish castings in Judeocentric stories is that Judaism is at the very heart of the action: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is driven by the ebbs and flows of the New York Jewish community (and very Jewish stand-up scene) of the 1950s, and Golda tells the story of Israel’s 4th Prime Minister.
These stories needed a Jewish perspective that’s jarringly absent. But Moon Knight takes a distanced approach to involving Judaism in Marc’s character arc with resonant results – after all, he spends more time chatting with Moon Knight’s hippo-God Taweret and Isis’ avatar than in a synagogue.
Many Jewish people, myself included, have a layered and complex relationship with Judaism’s religion, history, and culture. The episode used both Marc’s disassociative identity disorder (DID) and his torturous relationship with Judaism to complete his final fracturing and help him find some peace.
Throughout the episode, Spector is consistently denied closure around his brother’s tragic death by being denied the ability to sit Shiva. First, he was chased out of his brother’s Shiva by his abusive mother. Later, he gazes through the window at a row of Orthodox hats and somber faces at his mother’s Shiva, glugging from a whiskey flask, before throwing his yarmulke to the floor. He is denied first by direct abuse and second by the ghost of it.
The yarmulke is a revered sign of respect for G-d, and Jewish men traditionally kiss the yarmulke even after accidentally dropping it. Seeing this act of pure unbridled grief and rage as a Jewish viewer was genuinely jarring – not dissimilar to seeing Ryan Gosling’s conflicted Jewish Neo-Nazi stamp on a holy Torah scroll in The Believer.
He cradles and kisses his yarmulke afterward, steeped in guilt, booze, and unresolved maternal conflict. It’s a nod to the removed but omnipresent role Judaism plays for the MCU’s Marc Spector: he’s not an avenging Jewish angel like the Moon Knight in the comics became, he’s a deeply damaged man for whom Judaism appeared at the most distressing times and was always just out of reach.
The special mention of sitting Shiva is significant. Shiva is a 7-day mourning period in which the deceased’s community gathers at their surviving family’s house to offer comfort and share stories, slowly reconnecting families with the wider world after extreme pain. And given that Marc Spector and Steven Grant share a moment in which they acknowledge that Marc’s mother had a Shiva, with Steven finding out about her death for the first time, Moon Knight’s creators are drawing attention to its importance for both alters.
In “Asylum,” the Jewish touches are there to show the tranquility, community, and reflection that Marc is missing out on, not to illustrate Jewish history. It’s a beautiful, nuanced character touch – like Marc, I’m rarely at Temple outside of funerals, weddings, and bar mitzvahs, and the guilt resonated – but Moon Knight has still been, up to now, a show about a mercenary with a triple-digit body count enacting cosmic vengeance on behalf of a skeletal Egyptian bird god.
Moon Knight Comic Creator Alan Zelenetz Has Defended Marvel’s Marc Spector Casting
Moon Knight comic creator Alan Zelenetz has shrugged off questions around Oscar Isaac’s Marc Spector casting as an overreaction. After Doug Moench’s “accidental” insertion of Judaism into Marc Spector’s Moon Knight comic backstory, Zelenetz took over the run. Before the show aired, he spoke to US Jewish publication The Forward to make it clear that it wouldn’t even have been a problem if the character wasn’t Jewish at all as long as there was a “good artistic reason” and that Oscar Isaac’s religious status was immaterial.
The Marc Spector in the MCU’s Moon Knight spoke deeply to me and, quite ironically given the themes of the episode, struck a sweet balance between honoring the source material and moving it forward.
Given the placement of “Asylum” firmly in the top three pieces of Marvel content ever filmed, the emotional intelligence with which the showrunners handled every emotional and religious element of the episode, and Oscar Isaac’s genuinely gut-wrenching performance, the artistic decision paid dividends.
Spector is a walking kaleidoscope of fractured identity, trauma, and hurt, and Judaism takes up just one painful corner of who he is. Moon Knight’s character work, surprisingly deft even by Marvel’s standards, needed a master, and it received one in Oscar Isaac.
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