Vampires With Jewish Bloodlines?


Hollywood … bloodsuckers.

Who knew?

Roget's Thesaurus would. But then, go figure that Hollywood would borrow journalism's historic axiom and run with it: "If it bleeds, it leads."

It certainly does at the box office.

Which brings us to "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," the howl of a hit follow-up to the start of the saga, based on Stephenie Meyer's best-selling book series, in which big girls vamp for attention from some good-looking dudes with some serious dental demons.

Where have you gone, Bela Lugosi? A nation turns its tapered teeth to you … Where has he gone? Back to the casket as these post-mod vampires are hip, hot and trade bloody Marys and Jims with more worries about ADD than AIDS.

As the new venture gets set to open some serious box-office veins this weekend, with Kristin Stewart and Robert Pattinson again starring as the beauty and the B-negative who loves her, one wonders if it's a cross that's needed to ward off the evils of these eviscerators.

Or is it a … Star of David?

The bloodlines are there; think of it as a topsy-turvey Tevye living life from "Sunset, Sunrise." Sink your teeth into it — without fear of a call to the orthodontist.

In Lilith's Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural — what "Scene" originally thought was a treatise on the derivation of the "Jewfro" — Howard Schwartz posits that Adam may have been lucky to be rid of his first wife. Apples, schmapples — Eve's fixation on snakes and Red Delicious had nothing on Lilith, who, before having her reputation rehabbed as a magazine, was, according to the Zohar, as detailed by Schwartz, not above blood-sucking her way through enemy lines.

Enough about Wall Street: The medieval German-based text of Sefer Hasidim ("Book of the Pious") is rampant with blood-splashed spurned friends and lovers, including the tale of the vampire Astriyah, who used her hair to accomplish her blood-letting.

It was, of course, before the rinse was invented by Clairol.

Surely, way before "Twilight's" last gleaming, more will come out on all those going down for the count in Jewish folklore. Of course, such stories are not without their down side: Accusations of blood libel — in which Jews have been myth-takenly targeted for using the blood of Christian children to prepare matzah for Passover — has never truly passed from the cosmos in anti-Semitic literature.

Such babel doesn't preclude a passel of stories with Jewish accents staking out the vampire legend, however: Indeed, noted the 14th-century kabbalist Rebbe Menahem Zioni, those building the Tower of Babel were smacked down by God, who turned some of them into babbling … vampires.

Bat out of Chelm? A perusal of writings of biblical scholar Eliezer Segal of the University of Calgary also details the demons: "The Talmud was referring to estries" — female monsters — "when it spoke about beings who were created at twilight on the first Friday and whose bodies were not completed when God ceased working on the onset of Sabbath."

Tales from the crypt just as creepy: "Judaism developed along two tracks: the halachic, legalistic system, which gave expression to the formalistic practice of Jewish living; and a folk religion enhancing much of its flavor and texture from Aggadic text, informal and popular with the folk, but treated with reservation by the rabbinic leadership," writes Shael Siegel, a biblical blogger and popular writer.

"Some of the Aggadic texts, among other things, were peppered with stories of demons and angels. Many of these myths appearing in Aggadic texts were unique to Jewish tradition and some of them were absorbed from the hosting cultures incorporated into our texts, but reflecting the culture and the times. There are Aggadic references in the Talmud of blood-eating demons."

Of course, there is some comic relief on the topic as well: Greenberg the Vampire had a marvelous Marvel Graphic Novel to himself, a 1986 creation of author J.M. DeMatteis and artist Steve Leialoha.

Blood brothers? In this acclaimed novel, Oscar Greenberg's brother Ira runs a kosher butcher store, seemingly a good source if ever there was one for Oscar's late-night snacks. But, that's not the real temptation. As a boychick, Oscar got more than a trip to the bimah for his Bar Mitzvah — he got the ride of his life: He was seduced, trading one rite of passage for another, by none other than Lilith (she did get around), which may explain why Oscar's fountain pen leaked red rather than blue.

A Nice Jewish … Vampire?
But is there no hope? As any Jewish mother will tell you, a good son is a good son no matter who's seducing him. Steven M. Bergson's Jewish Comics: A Select Bibliography reveals that "in the end, it is Oscar's love for his mother that saves him and defeats Lilith."

A mother's kisses — or was it kvetches — that saved her son from yet another bloodsucker who would drain him of his goodness?

Forget the garlic — maybe it's a hunk of halvah that serves as protection.

Or rather a nice serving of milk and honey: Israel has joined the casket-cascade with its TV version, "Split," that counts Omer, Moshe and Ella Rozen — talk about your interfaith marriage; her father's a vampire, her mother, human — among its characters.

Crossed-up counts? The sign of the cross certainly didn't work on the Jewish vampire who made Roman Polanski's "The Fearless Vampire Killers" (1967) such an ecumenical extravaganza.

But that was more than 40 years ago. Seen any bloodsuckers lately — outside of Bernie Madoff?

"To the best of my knowledge, Jewish sources have not recorded any vampire sightings for several centuries now," recounts writer Segal.

But just in case … Wan and ashen Robert Pattinson, watch out! You are entering the "Twilight" zone: "Parents," warns Segal, "are advised to take some precaution the next time a sweet old bubbeleh tells them that their precious infant looks 'sweet enough to eat.' "

She just may mean it. 


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