Seattle’s Rapping Rabbi Revives Ladino Folksongs

Sept. 4 2015

Simon Benzaquen, an Orthodox rabbi of Moroccan-Sephardi ancestry, has recently teamed up with his congregant Alex Hernandez, a Mexican-born convert to Judaism, to perform Ladino folksongs in rap form. Jerry Large writes:

Benzaquen [said] that just a few years ago he thought of rap as disgusting, The change in Benzaquen’s view of rap came from another collaboration with a member of the congregation, the Seattle rapper Nissim (who used to be known as D. Black before his religious conversion). . . . Benzaquen was hooked on the idea of using hip-hop to reach a wider audience, which led to his partnership with Hernandez, another member of the congregation and a rapper and guitarist.

Hernandez grew up in Chihuahua, Mexico. He [said that] his grandfather used to read to him from the Bible, and he was attracted to the stories of the Israelite kings. He said he was a Christian for twelve years, then “One day I was like, ‘who wrote the Bible?’” He wanted to get closer to the original, so he learned Hebrew, and that led to a closer study of Judaism. Six years ago, he and his wife, Netzah Hernandez, who helps with the music, moved to Seattle for the conversion process. Most people may come to pursue the American dream, making money and all that, but Hernandez said he and his wife came for the religion. “I’m here because I wanted the Jewish dream.”

Read more at Seattle Times

More about: Arts & Culture, Conversion, Jewish music, Ladino, Popular music, Sephardim


The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy