When David Corenswet was announced as the next DC Comics Superman last month, Jewish movie and comic fans rejoiced: He will be the first Jewish actor to portray the hero in a blockbuster.
But one Jewish community in New Orleans has been particularly excited.
“The Corenswet family is well known and loved” in New Orleans, said Daniel Sherman, rabbi of the city’s historic Temple Sinai synagogue. “I have also heard a few groups talking about having some screening events to support David and are thrilled with the prospect of having not only a ‘Jewish Superman,’ but one with local roots.”
Reform Judaism in New Orleans
The Corenswet clan has long ties to Temple Sinai, Louisiana’s oldest Reform synagogue, founded in 1870. Although David Corenswet grew up in Philadelphia, many members of his family still attend Temple Sinai, including his uncle Jay, a past president of the congregation.
“It’s not the biggest issue in anyone’s life, but we’re very gratified that we’re going to have a Jewish Superman,” said Edward Cohn, a rabbi emeritus at Temple Sinai who is close to the Corenswets.
Corenswet also tapped Cohn when he got married in March. The ceremony took place at the Immaculate Conception church — one of the city’s historic Jesuit houses of worship, first opened in the 1850s — because Corenswet’s wife is Catholic.
Cohn co-officiated the ceremony with a priest — and according to Julie Vanderbrook, Immaculate Conception’s longtime wedding coordinator, “the rabbi kind of ran the show.”
It was the first time in at least two decades (possibly ever, according to Vanderbrook) that the church hosted a ceremony that included a chuppah, or Jewish wedding canopy. Other Jewish rituals, including the breaking of the glass, were combined with Catholic ones. Cohn said that Corenswet had a specific vision for how the day would go, and church staffers were delighted with how he carried it out.
“The bride and groom were just so determined to intersperse the Jewish traditions with the Catholic traditions, which to me just enhanced the beauty and the strength of both faiths,” Vanderbrook said. “I felt I got to know [the Corenswet family] pretty well, because they were delightful people.”
Multiple members of the New Orleans community who know David described him as quietly intense and intellectual, and he has successfully kept most of his personal life — including the details of his Jewish identity, and the very fact that he is married — private, even as the Hollywood spotlight has begun to shine brightly on him. (His publicists did not respond to multiple requests for an interview.)
But Cohn said Jewishness is an important part of David’s private life, even if he doesn’t regularly go to a synagogue. David and his new wife, who is also an actor, have been living in Philadelphia, and Cohn said they are “definitely intending to affiliate with a congregation,” even though they regularly travel to Los Angeles and other filming locations.
In 2020, David spoke at a Zoom event organized by Jewish Pride New Orleans, a group under the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans umbrella.
“He was so generous with his time,” said Marc Behar, who founded JP NOLA. “A thoughtful, kind person.”
Cohn also knew David’s grandfather, Sam Corenswet, Jr., who Cohn described as a “bright, worldly, well-educated southern gentleman.” Like his own father, Sam Jr. was involved with the Temple Sinai board — and the New Orleans Mid Winter Sports Association, which runs the college football Sugar Bowl (previously an end-of-year championship game, now part of the annual NCAA football Playoff). The family ran a wholesale appliance distributor business.
An article on the Sugar Bowl website explains the many famous college football figures Sam Corenswet, Jr. met over the course of a 50-year tenure as president of the association: “He’s met many of the legendary college coaches, Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes, Bud Wilkinson, Bob Devaney, Bobby Bowden and Nick Saban, through the years. He’s witnessed numerous Heisman Trophy winners and national championship squads.”
David Corenswet’s father John, who died of cancer in 2019 at 64, was an actor-turned-lawyer. The family did not have cable TV while David grew up, and they instead watched classic movies together. David caught the acting bug early and made his debut at age 9 in a local production of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons.” He would go on to Juillard; in auditions, he kept an old New York City subway token in his pocket, a gift and good luck charm from his father.
Corenswet, 30, is still far from a household name. He has starred in multiple Netflix series developed by prolific producer Ryan Murphy, including “The Politician” and “Hollywood,” but a turn as Superman will exponentially raise his profile. “Superman: Legacy” is slated for release in 2025 and co-stars Rachel Brosnahan, of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” fame, as Lois Lane.
It’s unclear whether David will bake anything Jewish into his performance — Superman was originally created by two Jews and the character’s real name, Kal-El, is thought to be a nod to Hebrew — but the rabbi who stood under the chuppah with him said he’s sure the actor will make the role his own.
“For a guy who is an actor, he’s not looking to be on stage all the time,” Cohn said. “He can laugh at himself. He’s got a great sense of humor, which I think will be really important in this role that he’s going to play.”