The Hebrew Hammer

WAY cooler than MC Hammer ever was.
Growing up I never had carols to sing, or a stranger with some flying deer bringing presents in the middle of the night. I was one of those kids who always had to bring a dreidel to class and explain what the miracle of the oil was all about. Every December, Rudolph and Frosty and that kid who wants a BB gun for Christmas play almost continuously on TV, but where were our claymation cartoons and tales of holiday miracles?

Finally, Jonathan Kesselman brings the much-neglected genre of jewxploitation an icon with his directorial debut, The Hebrew Hammer. Adam Goldberg leads the cast as Mordechai Jefferson Carver, a.k.a. The Hebrew Hammer, an "Orthodox Jew superhero detective" in this clever tribute to blaxploitation films filled with hilarious references even a gentile can appreciate.

The movie opens with a scene that could have been ripped from my own childhood. An Orthodox boy sits alone under a crudely made banner that reads "Happy Hanukkah Day 7," while the rest of the class celebrates a colorful and festive Christmas. The boy unwraps a plastic dreidel while the other children receive puppies and bikes and video games. The other children taunt and jeer, but it only helps to mold the boy into the man he will become.

With a Star of David wipe to present day, we meet The Hammer, strutting through the streets "Saturday Night Fever-style" as a parody of the Shaft theme plays lyrics like "He's the kyke that won't cop out when there's gentiles all about," and "No one understands him but his mother." Clad in pimped-out Orthodox gear, he cruises the streets of New York in his caddy (toting the license plate "L'CHAIM"), protecting the Jewish community from bullies and other un-kosher activity.

But when the not-so-jolly evil son of Santa (played by Andy Dick, no less) plans to eradicate Hanukkah from calendars forever "The baaddest Heeb this side of Tel Aviv" is recruited by the Jewish Justice League to save the festival of lights. Mario Van Peebles joins the fight as Mohammed, Head of the KLF (Kwanzaa Liberation Front). Mordechai must prevent the goyim from stealing Hanukkah with the help of his Semitic sidekicks and the ultimate Jewish weapon...guilt.

Hammer's catch phrase, "Shabbat shalom, motherf**kers!" captures the essence of a character rarely seen in cinema, sexy and powerful not in spite of being Jewish, but because of it.

For all the Jewish kids out there who never had a superhero to look up to, this flick is for you. And the Gentiles might enjoy it, too. This "Semitic super stud" brings a whole new form of justice to the screen. This time, it's kosher, baby.
--Ilana Urbach

Want more of the Hebrew Hammer?
Originally aired on Comedy Central, the R-rated version made its theatrical debut Hanukkah 2003 in New York, Los Angeles, and Boca Raton. For more info visit
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