“Werewolves are kind of like good Jewish boys, only more so,” says a character in Wen Spencer’s young adult novel, The Black Wolves of Boston. And it’s true. When 30 Rock debuted the novelty song “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” (think “Monster Mash,” but with a nice cut of brisket), the joke seemed random, even unsustainable. But you might be surprised to learn that the idea of Jewish werewolves is a long-winded mesorah. They may not all have bar mitzvahs, but if you count off the usual tenets of a werewolf story—following a lunar calendar, dashing off when the sun goes down, making excuses for weird disappearances, accusations, hunts, being driven off by suspicious townspeople—it’s easy to guess why Jewish creators throughout the years have chosen the werewolf as a central horror figure. After all, who could know better how it feels to be both a part of a nation and a nation apart?

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