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.”

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Read more at Seattle Times

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

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism