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Magical Jew

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"A Jewish Sage", an oil painting by Rabbi Yehuda Leon Patilon

The influence of Judaism and Jewish culture on the Western world goes back as far as the 4th century, when Christianity became the official religion of The Roman Empire. For this reason, though Jews were frequently depicted in Medieval fiction in an unfavourable light, they were sometimes seen by Europeans as bearers of wisdom and mystical knowledge. This view was prominent in Italy during The Renaissance, when numerous philosophers and mystics, including Pico della Mirandola and Johann Reuchlin, had an interest in Kabbalah.

In the subsequent centuries, the trope declined in prevalence due to increasing anti-Semitic tendencies within Europe, but rose to prominence again in the nineteenth century in the light of romanticized Orientalism. It reached another peak in popularity after World War II, when derogatory portrayals of Jews were no longer considered acceptable after The Holocaust, and the Jewish characters were usually depicted sympathetically.

In more modern works, such a character would often be an Eccentric Mentor due to the adoption of humorous Jewish tropes like Alter Kocker, Jewish Smartass, Jews Love to Argue, and Jewish and Nerdy. This is also the type of character who's likely to create a golem if the story depicts golems in their original Kabbalic context.

Compare Magical Negro, Magical Romani, Magical Asian, and Magical Native American; contrast Greedy Jew, another century-old Jewish stereotype in Western culture. Subtrope of Magical Minority Person and Religion is Magic. To qualify for this trope a character needs to serve as a mentor figure to another non-Jewish (or less traditional) character.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Rosenthal family from A Certain Scientific Accelerator are a centuries-old dynasty of Jewish mages specializing in necromancy, who for generations have sought to recreate the perfect, primordial human of kabbalistic lore (the Adam Kadmon) using a combination of Western and Eastern magical arts. Esther Rosenthal, the current head of the family, serves as a deutragonist for the series.

    Comic Books 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Independence Day: David's father is an explicitly Jewish character whose primary purpose in the story is to provide a source of wisdom (and Comic Relief) for the characters and audience. In fact, it's his statement (advising his son not to catch a cold) which is the catalyst that sparks David to create the computer virus that wins the war for humanity.
  • Fanny and Alexander: Has Mr. Jacobi and his nephew Aron, who are both for all intents and purposes wizards. Aron's brother Ismael seems to have some sort psychic power as well.
  • The Golem is an adaptation of the Golem of Prague story (see below under Folklore), and Rabbi Loew is a major character, creating the golem to protect the Jewish neighbourhoods from persecution.
  • Attachment: Lev, Leah's uncle who is Orthodox Jewish and a book shop owner, schools Maja (who's a gentile) on Jewish mysticism. He tells her about dybbuks, possessive demons in Jewish folklore, and kabbalic rituals.

  • Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel aka the Maharal of Prague, an important Jewish mystic and philosopher of the 16th century who, according to a legend, created the Golem of Prague.
  • In Ethiopia and surrounding countries, the bouda myth represents an overtly negative form of this. The bouda, or buda, is a Wicked Witch who can turn into a hyena to spread mischief and curses, and because Ethiopia's Jewish community, the Beta Israel, had long been associated with travelling metalworkers note , they were - and occasionally, still are - scapegoated as sorcerous werehyenas.

  • The Decameron, written during the Renaissance, has two characters of this sort. First, there is the wise Jew Abraham who travels to the Vatican and criticizes the corruption there, essentially becoming the author's mouthpiece. Second, there is the Jewish money lender Melchisedech, who is asked by a Sultan which of the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, or Islam) is true, and answers with a parable about the three rings, one of which is precious and the other two are fake, but nobody knows which is which.
  • The true identity of Caster of Black from Fate/Apocrypha is Avicebron, better known as Solomon Ibn Gabirol, a famous medieval Jewish poet who is said to have dabbled in Kabbalah and created a Golem. Very much a case of Historical Villain Upgrade, as the historical poet and philosopher who has composed some of the most beautiful, heartbreaking, inspiring Jewish poetry of his age is turned into a maniacal, misanthropic sorcerer so obsessed with creating a perfect golem he betrays and sacrifices his own Master.
  • The Wandering Jew pops up in one chapter of The Monk to rescue Raymond and Agnes from the ghost of the Bleeding Nun, then disappears after delivering some cryptic warnings to them.
  • Benjamin from A Canticle for Leibowitz, a quirky but wise Jewish Hermit Guru who may or may not be the Wandering Jew.
  • Gustav Meyrink played with the trope in several of his works:
    • Schemajah Hillel from The Golem, who becomes the protagonist's mentor in walking the path of mysticism, and his wise and beautiful daughter Miriam. Interestingly, a Greedy Jew (the junk dealer Aaron Wassertrum) is also present in the novel.
    • Chidher Green from The Green Face, the mysterious old man who also becomes the protagonist's spiritual guide, and who eventually turns out to be the Wandering Jew.
  • Emmanuel from Pelagia and the Red Rooster, an eccentric rabbi with supernatural powers who makes people realise their flaws and change for the better.
  • The Elenium has a Fantasy Counterpart Culture called the Styrics, who are a race of magicians who basically mentored the Elenes in the ways of magic and mysticism. In particular, the protagonist Sparhawk was taught by the Styric priestess Sephrenia.
  • The Journeyer includes a recurring character who pops up wherever Marco Polo is, claiming each time that they've never met. He offers wisdom and Marco suspects he is the Wandering Jew.
  • The Strain has Professor Abraham Setrakian, a Romanian Jewish academic, Holocaust survivor and vampire hunter. He initially serves to provide ignored warnings about the impending vampire pandemic before taking a leading role in combatting The Master, providing guidance and leadership to other characters in fighting him up until his own death.

    Live-Action TV 

  • Nathan the Wise by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing is about the wise Jewish merchant Nathan who helps a Christian Templar and a Muslim Sultan bridge the gap between their religions.

    Western Animation 
  • In Castlevania, the Speakers are a Fantasy Counterpart Culture, being a nomadic religious minority who're persecuted and scapegoated by a Christian majority. Their other main feature is keeping enormous amounts of lore via oral histories. The most prominent Speaker characters are The Elder, who more or less sets Trevor Belmont on the way to fighting Dracula, and Sypha, a Black Magician Girl with an extensive knowledge of magic. The show never says outright that they're Jewish, but they do drop the odd bit of Hebrew, and Sypha refers to Jesus as Yeshua. However, despite a superficial resemblance, the Speakers are culturally and theologically much more similar to the Cathars (a Christian Gnostic sect) than the Jews. Sypha's condemnation of God and praise of Jesus is a hallmark of Gnosticism and is considered heretical within Judaism.
  • Played for Laughs in the Family Guy episode "When You Wish Upon a Weinstein" when Peter explicitly seeks out a Jew to solve his financial problems, and is lucky enough for the first one he meets to be just the right man for the job.
    Max: Financial advice? How the hell did you know I'm an accountant?
    Peter: Uh, hello? Max Weinstein?
  • Sabrina: The Animated Series: In the episode "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?", Sabrina visits a Wise Warlock, who is Ambiguously Jewish in his appearance and mannerisms, to ask him for advice after getting rejected by her favorite teacher to go on a weekend field trip.
  • In The Simpsons, the father of Krusty the Clown, a rabbi, offers homespun wisdom to Bart and Lisa.


Video Example(s):


The Wise Warlock

Sabrina meets the ambiguously Jewish Wise Warlock who is meditating, and helps him untangle his legs.

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Main / BarefootSage

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