'Hebrew Hammer': Baddest Jew in the Whole Damn Town Takes on Hitler
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In The Hebrew Hammer vs. Hitler, it’s a decade later and Mordechai (Goldberg) is no longer the Jewish superman the kids on the block looked up to when he walked the streets of Brooklyn wearing a long leather coat and a feather-topped fedora over his shaped-with-spittle sidelocks ( payis). Now he’s settled down with a job selling trees to Israel for the Jewish Justice League in order to support his pregnant wife (still played by Judy Greer). Mordechai’s incensed by it all, and by the fact that the kids admire the Semitic Jewish Man – whose name, Hammer chafes, is not even an acronym for anything!
Then the plan to send the Semitic Jewish man to kill Hitler in a time-traveling Succah (the structure from the Jewish holiday, Succoth) goes awry. So Hammer and the Shaft -like Mohammed Ali Paula Abdul Rahim (Mario Van Peebles) get the chance to travel through Jewish history, meeting characters like Abraham and Isaac, Moses and Jesus, Anne Frank and Hitler.
“It’s sort of a combination between Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure meets History of the World, which is my favorite Mel Brooks movie of all time” says Kesselman, who feels more comfortable with his Jewishness now than he did 10 years ago when he first came up with the idea.
“I was going through a lot of rough stuff in my 20s, an identity crisis,” says the L.A. native, who swears allegiance to New York. Discovering the good in Jewish stereotypes – the sensitive, emotional man – made him want to “own” it. Indeed, the Hebrew Hammer can gain entry to the spy center with an agitated inner monologue or vanquish enemies with an immense guilt trip. Kesselman, now in his late 30s, a beefy, bespectacled Jew (with an Irish girlfriend) displays a Hammer-like witty self-deprecation and a feeling that the weight of the Jewish people rests upon his shoulders. (Hopefully in the new movie everyone will keep reminding Mordechai of that, sending him into paroxysms of guilt and the whiny retort that he can only do the best he can and to please stop talking about the fate of the Jewish people!)
Even though Kesselman has changed, not everything has changed for the Jews, Kesselman says, recalling location shoots that were canceled in the Bronx because of fear of reprisals. With the recent conflict in Gaza, world pressure is “ramping up” against Israel, just like was 10 years ago, Kesselman says. “Right now, I’m having a lot of discussions [about Israel and the Middle East] that should be had by smarter, more politically aware people than myself."
He’d rather contribute The Hebrew Hammer vs. Hitler.
“When everyone gets tense and so sensitive about things, it’s nice to have a movie separating Jews from Israel." Kesselman tries to figure out how to put it so he won’t offend anyone and everyone, a line he believes he knows how to tow after making a movie that makes fun of everyone. After a minute he figures out what he wants to say.
“This is American Jewish culture. And it’s pretty fucking cool."