Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Hip-Hop Artist Drake: Playing A Mega-Positive Role in the Jewish Orchestra

April 16, 2012 10:37 am 8 comments

Scene from Drake's "HYFR" music video. Photo: screenshot via Drake - HYFR ft. Lil Wayne (Official Video).

Rabbi Avi Weiss says the Jewish community can be compared to a symphony orchestra, one in which there are drummers, flautists, violinists, and so on. Many in the community play different roles so that it will function at its best. Each person has their unique place and hip-hop artist Drake is someone who should be embraced by the larger Jewish community as playing a positive role in the Jewish orchestra.

Last week on the first night of Passover, Drake released his  “bar mitzvah” video “HYFR“, which starts with footage from Drake’s actual bar mitzvah, where he is seen dancing, and wishing the camera “mazel tov.”  (As Drake has stated previously, his mom is Jewish, and he attended a Jewish day school growing up in Toronto.)

HYFR is a music video – staged as a bar mitzvah – with hip-hop stars including Lil Wayne, Birdman and DJ Khaled sitting in a synagogue respectfully watching Drake (wearing a yarmulke and prayer shawl) read from the Torah. Throughout the video, one sees a proud Jew – with no Jewish self-mocking – in scenes showing Drake being thrown up in a chair, and the event foods showcasing bagels and gefilte fish. This video is great for Jewish pride.

As one may expect from a hip-hop music video, there is profanity and sexually explicit lyrics, but even so, a yarmulke bearing Drake does a lot to help Jewish pride and awareness everywhere.

Young Jews rarely see Judaism as cool and having “cool Jews” to look at helps. It’s not easy to get young Jews to wear their religion so outwardly, but a video where Drake so publicly embraces Judaism (he previously wore a Chai pendant on the cover of Vibe magazine) is a positive cultural moment for Jews everywhere and can do a lot to bring Jews closer to their religion.

We live in a world where the Pope and the Dalai Lama wear distinct outfits which people understand, and rightfully see as normal. However, a Rabbi with distinctive Jewish garb and a beard is seen as “weird” by some Jews. This video is one that may be able to show some young Jews that a bar mitzvah (and Judaism) can be cool.  Let’s face it, in a teenager’s world, “cool” means a lot.

As a proud Jew myself, I am firmly committed to Jewish education.  My PR firm works extensively within the hip-hop industry with clients including Sean “Diddy” Combs, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and others. I can firmly say that Drake’s video is very good for the Jewish community.

A caption at the beginning of the video says the rapper “chose to get re-bar mitzvah’d as a re-commitment to the Jewish faith.” Now, Rabbis and other communal leaders need to do their part to bring more Jewish youth closer to the Jewish faith, in an authentic and real life manner.

While I am not yet ready to add Drake to my Jewish celebrity role model list, Drake is playing his role in the orchestra. Now it’s up to the rest of us in the Jewish community to do our part.

Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR Agency and an active Jewish philanthropist who previously served as National President of Betar, founded by Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

The Algemeiner newspaper delivers breaking news and insightful commentary from Israel, the Middle East and Jewish communities around the world | Host to an international Jewish interest blogger community covering Zionism, Israeli politics, Middle East security, terrorism, Jewish tradition, Jewish art, Jewish culture, Jewish music, Jewish activism, Jewish family and spirituality, interviews, profiles, features, video and much more. Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

8 Comments

  • Honestly being of Christian religon I can say that video was the best ever. It really does give young ones and outlook at life. Me being a teenage my intrest level might waver sometimes but this video described what every teenager and possible adult has done once in their life. It just happened to be in a synagogue

  • Simply horrifying… Had to turn off the video after half a minute. The juxtaposition of kodesh and vulgarity is just too painful to watch.

  • Ummm… “cool”??? I guess we will have to agree to disagree. You said; “one sees a proud Jew – with no Jewish self-mocking – …” But I see only a total mocking Judaism. I’m very sorry, but I don’t see a positive role at all in this. And definitely not a “Mega-Positive” one. I cringe when I think of my teenage and twenty-something daughters watching this video. Of course you have a vested interest in this being seen as “cool”. But there is something inherently sick in this “Jewish lifestyle” he portrays in HYFR. He might as well have concluded it with making Matzah with the blood of Christian children – which has been proven NOT to be true – for those silly wabits out there. But seriously, he is a very talented young man, and I have full confidence that he can do better than this for the Jewish cause.

  • You’ve got to be joking! This HYSR video is nothing less than puerile poke at Judaism and Jews by somebody who seems to think we have more to learn from the E-Channel culture of rap and bling.

    Having grown up in Miami, I attended Temple Israel of Greater Miami (whose sanctuary the video desecrated), where my late grandfather, of sainted memory, served as president during the late 1930s and early 1940s. I thus found the video to be a personal affront to me and all my deceased family members who prayed in that synagogue over three generations.

    Yes, I am aware that the Algemeiner is a Habad mouthpiece, but I cannot fathom how it can promote the rank pritzus and shameful immorality depicted in this video. I know you’re always quibbling about the legitimacy of your Crown Heights bet din, but I cannot imagine that even one its members would give you a heter to depict, or promote the depiction, of adults, adolescents and children carrying on and holding their copulatory sexuality up in the public sphere for all to see. I hardly need mention the gentile miscengenation issues, which could hardly be acceptable in a religion that prohibits you from drinking the wine, or eating the cooked food of gentiles lest you come to intermarry with them.

    What kind of meaningful life do you think you are promoting by featuring laudatory essays about this self-hating video?

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Book Reviews Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    It is cocktail hour on an April afternoon in 2004. The sun is hot on Amsterdam’s canals, and I am sitting at Café den Leeuw on the Herengracht with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Hirsi Ali is still a member of the Dutch Parliament, and we talk about Islam. Specifically, we talk about the concept of “moderate Islam,” or what she calls “liberal Islam.” And she has one word for it. “It’s absurd,” she says. “It’s complete nonsense. There is no ‘liberal […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    Everybody knows that cooking varies from country to country. There are Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, etc. We associate different styles of cuisine with different languages. Do we also think of the association of different cuisines with different dialects? We should, because cooking also varies from region to region. Litvaks and Galitsyaners have their own traditions of preparing gefilte fish. Marvin I. Herzog, in his book The Yiddish Language in Northern Poland: Its Geography and History (Indiana University, Bloomington, and Mouton & Co., The […]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    An analysis of New York Times wedding announcements showed that women married in Jewish ceremonies were less likely to take their husband’s last names than those married in Roman Catholic ceremonies, the Times reported on Saturday. The largest gap between the two groups was in 1995 when 66 percent of Catholic women took their husband’s names and 33 percent of Jewish women did the same. Nearly half of the women featured in the publication’s wedding pages since 1985 took their husband’s name after marriage, while about […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    JNS.org – Through appreciation of both his comedy and humanitarian work, legendary Jewish entertainer Jerry Lewis is staying relevant at age 89. The only comic to ever be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Lewis added another award to his trophy case in April, when he received the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). Gordon Smith, NAB’s president and CEO, said the organization was “honored to recognize not only [Lewis’s] comedic innovation, but also his remarkable […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli athletes marked a successful day on Sunday, as gymnasts won multiple bronze and silver medals in the 2015 European Games in Baku. The Gymnastics team won two silver medals and one bronze in group events, while Neta Rivkin, an Israeli Olympic gymnast, won bronze for the Solo Hoops event. Sunday’s gymnastics wins follow Sergey Richter’s bronze on June 16 for the Men’s 10 meter air-rifle, and Ilana Kratysh’s silver for women’s freestyle wrestling. The 2015 European Games in Baku are […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Russian-American Jews are some of the most successful ballroom dancing competitors in the U.S., South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB) Radio reported on Thursday. Jonathan Sarna, a professor of Jewish history at Brandeis University, said their success can be traced back to Jewish discrimination in the former Soviet Union. Because of the prejudice they faced, Russian Jews had to perform better than their peers in every field, including dancing, in order to have a chance of getting ahead. “They knew that if they […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    An Israeli dancer made use of Jewish props in an extraordinary routine that left judges amazed when he auditioned for season 12 of TV dance competition So You Think You Can Dance on Monday. At first, the panel of judges appeared confused when Asaf Goren, 23, began his audition in Los Angeles with a tallit (prayer shawl) over his head and the blowing of a shofar, which he explained “opens the sky” for people’s prayers. However, as soon as he started his “Hebrew breaking” performance, […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    JNS.org – A fairytale ending to Jewish basketball coach David Blatt’s first season in the National Basketball Association (NBA) was not meant to be, as the Blatt-led Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night dropped Game 6 of the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors, 105-97, to lose the best-of-seven series 4-2. Blatt, who just last year coached Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv franchise to a European basketball championship, failed to finish a second straight hoops season on top. But after the Cavaliers began the NBA […]

    Read more →