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The Hebrew Hammer

DVD cover
Directed by Jonathan Kesselman
Produced by Lisa Fragner
Josh Kesselman
Sofia Sondervan
Written by Jonathan Kesselman
Starring Adam Goldberg
Judy Greer
Andy Dick
Mario Van Peebles
Music by Michael Cohen
Cinematography Kurt Brabbee
Editing by Dean Holland
Distributed by Comedy Central Films
Strand Releasing
Release date(s) January 23, 2003 (Sundance Film Festival)
December 8, 2003 (television premier)
December 19, 2003 (limited theatrical release)
Running time 85 mins.
Country USA
Language English, Hebrew, Yiddish
Budget $2,000,000 (USD)

The Hebrew Hammer is a film that was released in 2003. It stars Adam Goldberg, Judy Greer, Andy Dick, Mario Van Peebles, and Peter Coyote. The plot concerns a Jewish superhero known as The Hebrew Hammer who must save Hanukkah from the evil son of Santa Claus who wants to destroy Hanukkah and make everyone celebrate Christmas. The film parodies blaxploitation films; and features Melvin Van Peebles in a cameo as "Sweetback". Director Jonathan Kesselman has jokingly dubbed it the first "Jewsploitation", or the first Jewish exploitation film ever.

The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and appeared at several other film festivals, Jewish and otherwise, during 2003. It had a limited theatrical run in late 2003, but the majority of its viewings came from a series of showings on Comedy Central in December of that year. This version of the movie was edited for television: all profanities were bleeped, and some scenes were cut. The DVD, released on November 16, 2004, contains the uncut version, which is rated R.


The movie begins with a flashback to a young Mordechai Jefferson Carver, who will grow up to become the Hebrew Hammer, sitting on a stoop, holding his baseball hero Sandy Koufax character lunch box. At school, Mordechai is tormented by his fellow students and his teacher for being a Jewish child in a Christian school, and celebrating Hanukkah while everyone else celebrates Christmas. After school, Mordechai walks down the street, only to see signs in all the store windows saying that Jews aren't welcome. Depressed, he lies down on the sidewalk, and spins his dreidel to cheer himself up... only to have it crushed under the foot by Saint Nick the Nasty (Santa Claus) who gives Mordechai the finger. Mordechai can do nothing but glare furiously at Santa as he walks away.

The scene then changes to Mordechai as a retired Captain in the Israel Defense Forces. He is now the Hebrew Hammer, a Certified Circumcised Dick who has dedicated his life to defending Jews. His snappy dress (a cross between the clothes of a pimp and a Hasidic Jew) and tough-guy demeanor have made him a hero to Jews everywhere.

But all is not well: trouble is brewing at the North Pole. The kind-hearted Santa, son of the cruel Santa who stomped Mordechai's dreidel decades earlier, is murdered by his own son Damian who then inherits the Santa title and immediately implements his plan to make Christmas the only holiday celebrated in December, undermining his late father's efforts to establish tolerance toward other religions. Alarmed, an elite group of Jews calls a meeting of the Jewish Justice League, led by Mordechai's former IDF commander, Chief Bloomenbergansteinenthal, who resembles Moshe Dayan. They argue about who should be sent to take on Damian, but are unable to agree until the Chief's daughter, Esther Bloomenbergansteinenthal, suggests the Hebrew Hammer. The Chief is initially reluctant to send the Hebrew Hammer (not only because of their choppy past but also because he was the one Jew banned from the J.J.L. for being too aggressive), but is eventually persuaded by Esther.

Esther goes to see Mordechai, but he is initially reluctant to help the J.J.L. Esther refuses to leave his side until he promises to help, and thus ends up accompanying Mordechai to Shabbat dinner at his mother's house. Agreeing to cooperate, the two women conspire to persuade Mordechai to help the J.J.L., but in such a way that he believes that he has thought of the idea himself.

Mordechai's first stop after meeting with the Chief is to go to the headquarters of the KLF (Kwanzaa Liberation Front). He meets with the leader of the KLF, Mohammed Ali Paula Abdul Rahiem, a friend of his. Mohammed takes Mordechai to question a former elf of Santa's named Jamal who lost his job when Damian took over. Unbeknowst to Mordechai, Jamal is really a double agent who is working for Damian. Jamal's clues lead Mordechai to a neo-Nazi bar, but Mordechai foils Damian's plan by single-handedly defeating the skinheads.

Damian is not sitting idle, however: with the help of his sidekick (a grown-up Tiny Tim), he has put the next phase of his evil plan in motion, which involves distributing bootleg copies of It's a Wonderful Life to Jewish children to make them want to celebrate Christmas, to the tune of Curtis Mayfield's song, "Pusherman", implying that the movie is being distributed like a drug. Discovering this scheme, Mordechai counterattacks by exposing the Jewish children to all the Hollywood films that portray Jews in a positive light (namely Fiddler on the Roof, Yentl, and Chaim Potok's The Chosen).

Learning that Damian is appearing at a local K-Mart, Mordechai and Esther go there to confront him, disguised as a Gentile couple. Although they successfully catch Damian, he is able to turn the tables, and they are forced to flee, chased by an angry mob of children who are convinced that they want to cancel Christmas for everyone. With some help from the Underground Jewish Railroad, they are able to make their escape.

Returning to Mordechai's apartment, he and Esther act on their mutual attraction and make love. Things go awry in the morning, however, when Mordechai learns that his mother told Esther to sleep with him. Esther insists that she didn't sleep with him for this reason, but Mordechai screams in horror, "My mother is my pimp!" Before they can resolve their argument, they get an urgent call from the Chief telling them to return to J.J.L. headquarters.

At headquarters, they watch a video broadcast from Damian and Tim in which they announce their plan to drain the energy from the Jewish Atomic Clock in Jerusalem. Mordechai goes off by himself to save the clock, but is secretly followed by Esther. The two of them are reunited at the clock, but before they can defeat Damian, Shabbat begins, and they must rest. While they are resting, Damian kidnaps Esther, and orders Tim to kill Mordechai. Just as Tim is about to kill Mordechai, though, he is stopped by the Kwanzaa Liberation Front.

Together, Mordechai and Mohammed lead an assault on the North Pole to save Esther and stop Damian once and for all. By using Judaism's ultimate weapon (complaining and guilt), Mordechai is able to defeat Damian and save Esther. He then proposes marriage to Esther, who gladly accepts.

The movie ends at the house of Mordechai's mother, where Mordechai and Esther are having dinner. As they dine, they see Santa's sleigh in the air, driven by Jamal, the new Santa Claus.


The Hebrew Hammer parodies many common stereotypes about Jews. During filming, the movie came to the attention of the Anti-Defamation League, who were concerned that it might promote unfavorable images of Jews. After viewing it, they concluded that the film was not antisemitic in any way.

Many scenes were shot in Borough Park, Brooklyn, which has a large community of Hasidic Jews. Filmmakers were initially concerned that they might protest the movie, as they did with the 1998 film A Price Above Rubies, and shut down filming. To their relief, the reaction of the Hasidim in Borough Park was almost uniformly positive, and several residents of the neighborhood appear as extras in the movie.

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