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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 4, 2013 PAGE 13A Religious hip-hop artist puts his complex identity onscreen By Emma Silvers J the Jewish news weekly of Northern California There's a telling moment, midway through "Y-Love"--a new documentary named for its subject, the boundary- breaking black Orthodox Jew- ish rapper--in which the artist contemplates his public and private identities. Yitz Jordan, he explains, is the regular person. Y-Love is the hip-hop sensation: all at- titude,swaggerand undeniable stage presence. Y-Love doesn't quite care if people don't under- stand how rap and observant Judaism go hand in hand. The artist recently added one more piece to the identity puzzle. In May, after the film wrapped, he announced he was gay--a move he says has helped to resolve some of the dissonance in his life. "That split, that disconnect between 'Y-Love' and Yitz Jor- dan, a lot of that was a function of the closet. That was the No. 1 thing that wasn't allowing me to be myself," says Jordan, 34, by phone from his home in New York, two months after coming out. Born in Baltimore to a Puerto Rican mother and a Christian Ethiopian father, Jordan was just 7 when he became interested in Judaism after seeing a TV commercial. "It was literally five seconds, like 'Happy Passover from Yitz Jordan, a.k.a. Y-Love your friends at Channel 2!' "he recounts in the documentary. He started drawing Stars of David on everything in the house because he liked the way they looked. By 14, he was observing Shabbat, wearing a kippah and reading any Jewish text he could get his hands on. He was 22 when he converted in 2000, and soon after moved to Jerusalem to study at a yeshiva. It was there, through making up rhymes with a friend to help remember Torah por- tions, that he became interested in hip -hop. From then on, being both an observant Jew and a rapper have never seemed at odds to him. "There's no mitzvah that says you have to sit still in black pants and white shirt and learn Torah--the mitzvah is to learn Torah. And everyone had tricks, mental devices for learning. It's finding things that help get the Torah from the page into your head and your heart," says Jordan. "Hip-hop worked for me. I've never seen why there should be a disconnect." After moving to Brooklyn, he began performingat open mics, releasing his first mix tape in 2005, followed by a critically acclaimed full-length album in 2008. A scene of one perfor- mance in Jerusalem features throngs of excited Israeli hip- hop fans mobbing the rapper after the show. The film's producer, Pilar Haile-Damato, says she and director Caleb Heller became interested in Jordan after reading a New York Times story about racial tensions and violence in Crown Heights-- a Brooklyn neighborhood with prominent Hassidic and African-American populations. It took a while to earn his trust, says Haile-Damato, but once they did, she and Heller got a much more layered story than they had been expecting. "We were in Baltimore, and we had gone through the house he'd grown up in, and we were coming to the end of this very nostalgic trip for him," recalls the producer. "And he was in the backseat of the car and he just said, 'Well, you know, I'm gay,' and we were like, 'What?' It changed the arc of the film completely." Initially the pair thought Not by bread alone in Syria By Michel Stors The Media Line The shelling in the Midan district of Aleppo did not particularly trouble Samir Batah. It was the seven hour long wait to get a loaf of bread that had him angry and frustrated. "I spent most of my day here," the 43-year- old restaurateur griped. "We do nothing but stand in lines now." With the battle for Syria's largest city entering its sixth month, residents are quickly reaching the end of their patience. In a country where war has become the basic staple of the day, people merely want a return to their monotonous lives even if that means President Bashar al-Asad's regime remains in power. Batah comes to his local bakery every night around midnight. When he does, he finds the crowds already jockeying for position. The pushing and the yelling look like scenes straight out of a Wall Street trading pit. Except in Midan, the crowds are not looking to make a quick profit on IBM shares. Instead, they are merely try- ing to get a bag of pita bread. Like many basic com- modities in Syria, bread is heavily subsidized by the government. But the war has disrupted production and created long lines. The problem is not the supply of flour which is abundantly available in the province. Rather it is the gas that fuels oven that is in scarce supply. With highways to regime controlled areas largely cut off by tanks and snipers, smugglers must take cir- cuitous routes that turn a routine 45 minute trip into a 4 hour adventure. Their labors have padded the price of gas and bread with hazard- ous duty costs. A container of cooking gas that cost $5 before the war now runs for $55 while the few pita loaves that Batah and his family ate a day has skyrocketed from 21 cents to $2.80. "The bread is becoming too expensive for us," Batah complains. "Soon we will have to share meals with family." It is not only the price of basic staples that has Batah and others reel- ing. With the war having paralyzed the economy, few people are working and everyone is relying on dwindling savings to support themselves. For many though, just staying alive is difficult. Re- gime forces constantly shell residential areas and occa- sionally even bomb neigh- borhoods with fighter jets. Last week the regime dan- gerously raised the stakes by launching SCUD missiles at rebel held military bases north of the city. The notori- ously inaccurate projectiles - 39 of which Iraqi forces launched at Israel during the 1991 Gulf War- risk causing more havoc in the built up areas of the city. Fighters such as Muham- mad Hilal though are not scared of the new weapon the regime has unleashed against them. They have braved everything from tanks to fighter jets. In mid- December, Hilal's battalion called the Descendants of Salah al-Din captured the Infantry School north of Aleppo. The strategically located base gave the rebels a link with the northern countryside and tumbled one more regime domino in a region where it has precious few left. "The regime is crum- bling," Hilal boasted. "Look at what we were able to cap- ture with only a few hundred fighters." The seizure of the sprawling school was indeed impressive. Miles and miles of barracks dotted the com- pound. Burned out tanks destroyed by the rebels stood next to the rubble of train- ing buildings. Piles of over- turned ammunition crates filled a half dozen rooms. Though the rebels are pushing out of the city, inside their offensives have grounded to a halt. After quickly losing three quarters of the city within a few weeks, the regime regrouped and is now hunkered down in the western neighborhoods and controls the strategic Old City with its medieval citadel. But in the quarters the rebels have captured, they are struggling to replace the regime and the services it provided. The electricity has been out for almost a month and with the biting cold and daily drizzles of winter hav- ing descended, residents are scrambling to find anything to burn for heat. Families have sold off jewelry to pay for diesel fuel. The less fortunate cart off wood from fallen trees in residential parks. In the Karm al-Tahan park, Faysal Mustafa is foraging for wood. He often sends his children to scavenge, but the daily exposure to the rains has left one sick and another utterly exhausted. "This war has us all strug- gling to survive," he explains as he gathers a few branches. And with the coldest months of the winter yet to come and no end in sight to a revolution soon entering its third year, the uphill battle Mustafa and the other residents of Aleppo face is sure to become even harder to surmount. they might end the 50-minute documentarywith Jordan com- ing out and dealing with the aftermath. "But what became more interesting was his inner struggle, coming to terms with being honest about it," says Haile-Damato. "And certain scenes now, you can see it in his face when we asked him certain questions: He's thihk- ing, 'Am I gonna say this right now?' I think anyone who's ever struggled with identity issues can relate to that." What made it seem like the right time to come out? "During filming, it just became like the 800-pound elephant in the room," says Jordan. "I'd been starting to come out in my private life since 2009, but as an artist it was always a question of 'Am I gonna lose all my fans?'" He adds that he used to constantly screen Twitter and other web- sites to make sure no one was leaking information about his sexuality. "And then at a certain point it became: I'm over 30, I've wasted years of my life not dat- ing, not getting married. I can't really care about what iaublic opinion might be anymore," says the rapper. "Especially when you have gay kids kill- ing themselves, you have this backlash to gay marriage from the Christian right, with brain- washing and 'anti-gay therapy' ... I realized it was important to say, 'I'm going to stand up for myself and my own com- munity.'" As for the fans? "The reaction has been almost overly positive," says Jordan, laughing. Rabbi friends have tried to set him up with other gay Orthodox men. He was booked to perform at a retreat run by Eshel, the national organization dedicated to building understanding and support in the Orthodox community for gay and les- bian Jews. A month after coming out publicly, Jordan performed at New York City's Pride Festi- val-and was overwhelmed to see his friends from yeshiva, not to mention Hassidic women in long black dresses, marching and dancing alongside gay people. "They say it gets better?" says Jordan. "I'm here to say it gets awesome." Emma Silvers is a staff writer for J the Jewish news weekly of Northern California from which this article was reprinted by permission. HANDYMAN SERVICE Handy man & General Maintenance Air Conditioning Electrical ,- Plumbing Carpentry Formerly handled maintenance at JCC References available STEVE'S SERVICES Call Steve Doyle at (386) 668-8960 J00-.m F LO Pd DA Call us Caring for you in your home or facility part-time or 24 hours 7 days a week. We always provide a C.N.A. Laundry Range of Motion Exercises Walking Assistance Companion Services Light housekeeping Meal prep and clean-up Medication Reminders Errands & Transportation Alzheimer's & Dementia Care Bathingrrransferringrroileting ! . .... Get 10 hours of care FREE/ Callus TODAY for details... : ..... ............. i ..................................................................................................... ,.,, i , ........... :, ,,,,: :,,:: . -:," tate of FL AHCA License # t',IR 3021 !467 State of FL ,':.,,}-.CA L,nse # I61t Inaured and cnde5 ......... HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 4, 2013 PAGE 13A Religious hip-hop artist puts his complex identity onscreen By Emma Silvers J the Jewish news weekly of Northern California There's a telling moment, midway through "Y-Love"--a new documentary named for its subject, the boundary- breaking black Orthodox Jew- ish rapper--in which the artist contemplates his public and private identities. Yitz Jordan, he explains, is the regular person. Y-Love is the hip-hop sensation: all at- titude,swaggerand undeniable stage presence. Y-Love doesn't quite care if people don't under- stand how rap and observant Judaism go hand in hand. The artist recently added one more piece to the identity puzzle. In May, after the film wrapped, he announced he was gay--a move he says has helped to resolve some of the dissonance in his life. "That split, that disconnect between 'Y-Love' and Yitz Jor- dan, a lot of that was a function of the closet. That was the No. 1 thing that wasn't allowing me to be myself," says Jordan, 34, by phone from his home in New York, two months after coming out. Born in Baltimore to a Puerto Rican mother and a Christian Ethiopian father, Jordan was just 7 when he became interested in Judaism after seeing a TV commercial. "It was literally five seconds, like 'Happy Passover from Yitz Jordan, a.k.a. Y-Love your friends at Channel 2!' "he recounts in the documentary. He started drawing Stars of David on everything in the house because he liked the way they looked. By 14, he was observing Shabbat, wearing a kippah and reading any Jewish text he could get his hands on. He was 22 when he converted in 2000, and soon after moved to Jerusalem to study at a yeshiva. It was there, through making up rhymes with a friend to help remember Torah por- tions, that he became interested in hip -hop. From then on, being both an observant Jew and a rapper have never seemed at odds to him. "There's no mitzvah that says you have to sit still in black pants and white shirt and learn Torah--the mitzvah is to learn Torah. And everyone had tricks, mental devices for learning. It's finding things that help get the Torah from the page into your head and your heart," says Jordan. "Hip-hop worked for me. I've never seen why there should be a disconnect." After moving to Brooklyn, he began performingat open mics, releasing his first mix tape in 2005, followed by a critically acclaimed full-length album in 2008. A scene of one perfor- mance in Jerusalem features throngs of excited Israeli hip- hop fans mobbing the rapper after the show. The film's producer, Pilar Haile-Damato, says she and director Caleb Heller became interested in Jordan after reading a New York Times story about racial tensions and violence in Crown Heights-- a Brooklyn neighborhood with prominent Hassidic and African-American populations. It took a while to earn his trust, says Haile-Damato, but once they did, she and Heller got a much more layered story than they had been expecting. "We were in Baltimore, and we had gone through the house he'd grown up in, and we were coming to the end of this very nostalgic trip for him," recalls the producer. "And he was in the backseat of the car and he just said, 'Well, you know, I'm gay,' and we were like, 'What?' It changed the arc of the film completely." Initially the pair thought Not by bread alone in Syria By Michel Stors The Media Line The shelling in the Midan district of Aleppo did not particularly trouble Samir Batah. It was the seven hour long wait to get a loaf of bread that had him angry and frustrated. "I spent most of my day here," the 43-year- old restaurateur griped. "We do nothing but stand in lines now." With the battle for Syria's largest city entering its sixth month, residents are quickly reaching the end of their patience. In a country where war has become the basic staple of the day, people merely want a return to their monotonous lives even if that means President Bashar al-Asad's regime remains in power. Batah comes to his local bakery every night around midnight. When he does, he finds the crowds already jockeying for position. The pushing and the yelling look like scenes straight out of a Wall Street trading pit. Except in Midan, the crowds are not looking to make a quick profit on IBM shares. Instead, they are merely try- ing to get a bag of pita bread. Like many basic com- modities in Syria, bread is heavily subsidized by the government. But the war has disrupted production and created long lines. The problem is not the supply of flour which is abundantly available in the province. Rather it is the gas that fuels oven that is in scarce supply. With highways to regime controlled areas largely cut off by tanks and snipers, smugglers must take cir- cuitous routes that turn a routine 45 minute trip into a 4 hour adventure. Their labors have padded the price of gas and bread with hazard- ous duty costs. A container of cooking gas that cost $5 before the war now runs for $55 while the few pita loaves that Batah and his family ate a day has skyrocketed from 21 cents to $2.80. "The bread is becoming too expensive for us," Batah complains. "Soon we will have to share meals with family." It is not only the price of basic staples that has Batah and others reel- ing. With the war having paralyzed the economy, few people are working and everyone is relying on dwindling savings to support themselves. For many though, just staying alive is difficult. Re- gime forces constantly shell residential areas and occa- sionally even bomb neigh- borhoods with fighter jets. Last week the regime dan- gerously raised the stakes by launching SCUD missiles at rebel held military bases north of the city. The notori- ously inaccurate projectiles - 39 of which Iraqi forces launched at Israel during the 1991 Gulf War- risk causing more havoc in the built up areas of the city. Fighters such as Muham- mad Hilal though are not scared of the new weapon the regime has unleashed against them. They have braved everything from tanks to fighter jets. In mid- December, Hilal's battalion called the Descendants of Salah al-Din captured the Infantry School north of Aleppo. The strategically located base gave the rebels a link with the northern countryside and tumbled one more regime domino in a region where it has precious few left. "The regime is crum- bling," Hilal boasted. "Look at what we were able to cap- ture with only a few hundred fighters." The seizure of the sprawling school was indeed impressive. Miles and miles of barracks dotted the com- pound. Burned out tanks destroyed by the rebels stood next to the rubble of train- ing buildings. Piles of over- turned ammunition crates filled a half dozen rooms. Though the rebels are pushing out of the city, inside their offensives have grounded to a halt. After quickly losing three quarters of the city within a few weeks, the regime regrouped and is now hunkered down in the western neighborhoods and controls the strategic Old City with its medieval citadel. But in the quarters the rebels have captured, they are struggling to replace the regime and the services it provided. The electricity has been out for almost a month and with the biting cold and daily drizzles of winter hav- ing descended, residents are scrambling to find anything to burn for heat. Families have sold off jewelry to pay for diesel fuel. The less fortunate cart off wood from fallen trees in residential parks. In the Karm al-Tahan park, Faysal Mustafa is foraging for wood. He often sends his children to scavenge, but the daily exposure to the rains has left one sick and another utterly exhausted. "This war has us all strug- gling to survive," he explains as he gathers a few branches. And with the coldest months of the winter yet to come and no end in sight to a revolution soon entering its third year, the uphill battle Mustafa and the other residents of Aleppo face is sure to become even harder to surmount. they might end the 50-minute documentarywith Jordan com- ing out and dealing with the aftermath. "But what became more interesting was his inner struggle, coming to terms with being honest about it," says Haile-Damato. "And certain scenes now, you can see it in his face when we asked him certain questions: He's thihk- ing, 'Am I gonna say this right now?' I think anyone who's ever struggled with identity issues can relate to that." What made it seem like the right time to come out? "During filming, it just became like the 800-pound elephant in the room," says Jordan. "I'd been starting to come out in my private life since 2009, but as an artist it was always a question of 'Am I gonna lose all my fans?'" He adds that he used to constantly screen Twitter and other web- sites to make sure no one was leaking information about his sexuality. "And then at a certain point it became: I'm over 30, I've wasted years of my life not dat- ing, not getting married. I can't really care about what iaublic opinion might be anymore," says the rapper. "Especially when you have gay kids kill- ing themselves, you have this backlash to gay marriage from the Christian right, with brain- washing and 'anti-gay therapy' ... I realized it was important to say, 'I'm going to stand up for myself and my own com- munity.'" As for the fans? "The reaction has been almost overly positive," says Jordan, laughing. Rabbi friends have tried to set him up with other gay Orthodox men. He was booked to perform at a retreat run by Eshel, the national organization dedicated to building understanding and support in the Orthodox community for gay and les- bian Jews. A month after coming out publicly, Jordan performed at New York City's Pride Festi- val-and was overwhelmed to see his friends from yeshiva, not to mention Hassidic women in long black dresses, marching and dancing alongside gay people. "They say it gets better?" says Jordan. "I'm here to say it gets awesome." Emma Silvers is a staff writer for J the Jewish news weekly of Northern California from which this article was reprinted by permission. HANDYMAN SERVICE Handy man & General Maintenance Air Conditioning Electrical ,- Plumbing Carpentry Formerly handled maintenance at JCC References available STEVE'S SERVICES Call Steve Doyle at (386) 668-8960 J00-.m F LO Pd DA Call us Caring for you in your home or facility part-time or 24 hours 7 days a week. We always provide a C.N.A. Laundry Range of Motion Exercises Walking Assistance Companion Services Light housekeeping Meal prep and clean-up Medication Reminders Errands & Transportation Alzheimer's & Dementia Care Bathingrrransferringrroileting ! . .... Get 10 hours of care FREE/ Callus TODAY for details... : ..... ............. i ..................................................................................................... ,.,, i , ........... :, ,,,,: :,,:: . -:," tate of FL AHCA License # t',IR 3021 !467 State of FL ,':.,,}-.CA L,nse # I61t Inaured and cnde5 .........