Andrew Garfield’s Jewish heritage

“I hope Jewish people won’t mind the cliché, because my father’s Jewish. I have that in me for sure."
(Photo: Netflix/Tick, Tick... Boom!)

Andrew Garfield is best known for his roles in Spiderman and “The Social Network,” but his most recent performance as the lead of musical drama “Tick, Tick… Boom!” might be his best work yet. In the film, directed by Lin Manuel Miranda, Garfield plays legendary Jewish American composer Jonathan Larson, which has caused some people to wonder: is the British American actor Jewish?

Fans have gone searching for this question before, but this is the highest this search trend has ever reached since Garfield’s on-screen debut.

So here is everything we know about Andrew Garfield’s Jewish identity:

The basics

(Photo: Netflix/Tick, Tick… Boom!)

Andrew Russell Garfield was born on August 20, 1983 in Los Angeles, California, to Lynn and Richard Garfield.

When Garfield was three, his family moved from California to the United Kingdom and he was raised in Epsom, Surrey. His mother (not Jewish) was from Essex, England and his father (Jewish) is from California, although Richard’s parents were also from the U.K.

His grandparents were Jewish immigrants to London

Garfield’s father is Jewish and his paternal grandparents immigrated to London from Poland, Russia and Romania.

His family surname was originally Garfinkel

Like the story of many Ashkenazi Jews whose family immigrated to English-speaking countries, Garfield’s original last name, Garfinkel, was changed somewhere along the way.

He’s played Jewish roles

Garfield has played someone Jewish on-screen more than once. In “The Social Network” he played Jewish co-founder of Facebook, Eduardo Saverin.

He also played Spiderman, who Garfield described as “undoubtedly Jewish.”

“Peter Parker is not a simple dude. He can’t just switch off. He never feels like he’s doing enough. And Peter suffers from self-doubt,” Garfield explained in a 2014 interview with Time Out. “He um’s and ah’s about his future because he’s neurotic. He’s Jewish. It’s a defining feature.”

“I hope Jewish people won’t mind the cliché, because my father’s Jewish. I have that in me for sure,” he added.

Garfield isn’t the first to call Superman Jewish. After all, he was created in 1938 by the children of Jewish immigrants, Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster.

The Jewishness of “Tick, Tick, Boom”

Most recently in “Tick, Tick… Boom!” Garfield played the creator of “Rent,” Jewish-American composer, lyricist and playwright Jonathan Larson.

The film doesn’t focus on Larson’s Jewishness but it’s definitely felt. 

In one scene, while waiting tables at a diner, Larson quietly corrects a customer’s repeated mispronunciation of challah. In another, he breaks down talking about “parents under 50 saying Kaddish for their children.”

“I think it’s just a given,” he told the Jewish Chronicle about his connection to Larson through Judaism. “The fact that we both have a Jewish heritage in our blood, it probably enabled me to feel that kindred, bone ancestral feeling. And the fact that we’re both Jewish artists, I think that’s a very specific breed.”

In that interview, Garfield also noted how grateful he is for having some Jewish heritage.

“It’s just like, ‘Oh, we come from the same tribe,’ and how beautiful to find not only a member of my tribe in art but a member of my tribe in Jewish heritage, which I value so much and which I feel so grateful that I have in my system.”

He believes Judaism has influenced his acting

(Photo: Netflix/Tick, Tick… Boom!)

When asked in what ways Judaism has influenced his work, Garfield said:

“The first thing I’d go to is empathy. Because of the ancestral memory of what it is to be persecuted, of what it is to be told that you don’t belong on this earth, that there’s a physical threat of violence and extermination, and how deeply moving it is that we have survived that threat, that can only enhance our empathy for anyone else going through that same kind of injustice and threat of physical annihilation.”

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