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Move Over Spiderman - Here Comes Rabbi Ben-Eliezer

Kosher comics are a big hit for the growing hareidi religious market, where Spiderman is not approved reading. Meet a new hero: Rabbi Ben-Eliezer.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 11/9/2009, 2:28 PM / Last Update: 11/9/2009, 2:40 PM

Israel news photo

A former secular Jew’s new “kosher comics” are a big hit in the growing hareidi religious market, which businesses both inside and outside Israel are realizing is an untapped market.

Dror Yisrael Cohen, resident of  northern city of Tzfat, with a history steeped in Kabbalah, two months ago launched Israel’s first weekly comic magazine for hareidi religious Jews. One of his heroes is Rabbi Yisrael ben [son of] Eliezer, known today as the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Hassidic movement.

Cohen told the French news agency AFP that his heroes will have “power with certain boundaries of logic” and will not be like Spiderman and the Hulk. A significant difference is that his comic books are aimed at teaching positive Jewish values and praising the Creator.

The hareidi religious community has limited access to the Internet, which is considered taboo or is strictly monitored to keep out material that may corrupt values. Videos are also off-limits, leaving an open and waiting market for the colorful comic books that have become popular in hareidi religious communities.

Cohen, who does not have an Internet connection, is working on his current series in which a poor but observant Jew becomes rich after receiving a blessing from a learned sage.

A board or rabbis supervises content of the comics so that it does not offend Jewish values. Cohen agrees: “There is censorship and I think there should be. I make sure that the drawings have educational value. and they make sure they do not corrupt the children's souls."