The Secret Jewish History of Time Travel

black and white photo of clocks
Photo by Andrey Grushnikov on

My challenge tonight, as suggested by Helen Goldrein is, like yesterday’s, another toughie.

Jews are obsessed with time but what about time travel?

In the realm of science-fiction, time travel is very popular. Jewish writer Isaac Asimov wrote about it his 1955 novel The End of Eternity.

In the Star Trek universe, which is very Jewish, (television series, films, and spin-offs), time travel has featured in many episodes.

One of the most famous time travellers in popular culture is Doctor Who who, as I have argued elsewhere, can be read as Jewish. James Jordan has described him as “The Wandering Who.”

Perhaps some of the most famous films about time travel are the Back to the Future trilogy. The three films were co-written by Bob Gale, who is Jewish.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989), another time traveling odyssey, was co-written by Ed Solomon, who is Jewish. On their eponymous adventure, they meet Sigmund Freud.

Steven Spielberg made Minority Report in 2002 which imagined a “PreCrime” unit of police officers that, using pre-knowledge, prevented crimes from happening.

Other films featuring time travel which have been directed by Jews include Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis), Men in Black (Barry Sonnenfeld) and Spy Kids 4 (Jeremy Piven).

On a personal level, my favorite time travel film is Time Bandits which my sister took me to see when I was eight or nine years old.

Jewish actors Josh Bowman and Adam Pally feature in Making History and Time After Time respectively.

Jews have obvious reasons for wanting to travel back in time and change history. Jewish writer, Stephen Fry, dealt with his in his book Making History in which he creates an alternative reality in which Hitler never existed.

One academic article imagines “a virtual time trip to different episodes of Earth history, to see what might be available for an observant Jewish time traveler to eat.” Amusingly, the article is called “Jurassic Pork.”

Food restrictions aside, it would be difficult for Jews to travel back to most periods and places in human history, given the historical antipathies to Jews and Judaism.

On the religious front, one rabbi argues that “We Jews actually know a great deal about time travel. We don’t need a DeLorean to go on this journey.”


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