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PAGE 20A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 18, 2012 Appreciation: No, Yauch wasn'L a yeshiva boy, but we can still claim him By Dvora Meyers unwilling to cover rap, a The Beastie Boys' own Hop Album Guide." intertwined the Beastie NEW YORK (JTA)--As a student at an all-girls day school in Brooklyn, the first thing I learned about the Beastie Boys turned out to be untrue. According to a yeshiva urban legend, two of the founding members of the Beastie Boys had attended The Marsha Stern Tal- mudic Academy in upper Manhattan. Some MTA students even claimed to know where the hip-hop pioneers had tagged the school with their handles. This was before every claim could be verified or disproved with a Google search. After seeing a photo- graph of the trio in a music magazine in the mid-1990s, I decided I could believe that the three nerdy-looking, funny white Jewish guys in fact had been nerdy, rebellious yeshiva students. Of course they never attended an Orthodox edu- cational institution. Still, despite denials from the Beastie Boys, the rumor persisted. Yeshiva students continued to project them- selves onto this seminal hip-hop act for years, even after Drake came along and started talking about his bar mitzvah. When Adam "MCA" Yauch, one of those al- Fabio Venni via CC Beastie Boys founding member Adam Yauch, known as MCA, shown at a 2007 concert in London. leged yeshiva students, died last Friday at 47 fol- lowing a three-year battle with cancer, there was an outpouring of grief and condolences from fans and some of the biggest names in hip-hop. He and the Beastie Boys helped put hip-hop on the map in 1986 with their debut, "Licensed to Ill," the first rap album to hit the top of Billboard's album charts. The album yielded sev- eral classic singles such as "Fight for Your Right to Party" and "No Sleep Till Brooklyn." It also landed the Boys on the cover of Rolling Stone--the maga- zine had been notoriously nascent and increasingly significant art form--with the headline "Three Idiots Make a Masterpiece." "The Beasties opened hip-hop music up to the suburbs," Rick Rubin, who produced "Licensed to Ill," said in an interview with The Plain Dealer of Cleveland. "As crazy as they were, they seemed safe to Middle America, in a way black artists hadn't been up to that time." Of course, this sort of attention turned the Jew- ish bohemians into targets for those who viewed their success through the prism of white privilege and rac- ism. Yet, and this is much to the group's credit, the criticisms eventually dis- sipated. "We don't hear the word 'Elvis' uttered in the same breath as 'Beastie Boys,' " Dan Charnas, author of "The Big Payback," wrote in a tribute to Yauch pub- lished in Spin. "The integ- rity of Yauch and his peers had a lot to do with it." Yauch and the Beasties came of age, creatively speaking, in the downtown bohemia of Manhattan in the early '80s where punk rockers (as the Beasties had formerly been) mixed freely with uptown emcees and DJs. The racial lines in this scene and early hip-hop were crossed in surprising ways. career reflects that. They were introduced to black audiences by the biggest rap act of the day, Run DMC. In turn the Beasties, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last month, helped launch the career of Public Enemy, which opened for the mega-successful Boys on tour. The Beastie Boys paid homage to their myriad influences in the pages of the now-defunct Grand Royal magazine, which started in the early '90s and reflected their tastes, from movies to artists such as Lee "Scratch" Perry, a name familiar to those inside the hip-hop scene as his work is often sampled in tracks. By exposing a wider au- dience to these important figures in the culture's history, the Beasties Boys helped give credit where it was due and properly situ- ated themselves within the hip-hop tradition. "The Beastie Boys took responsibility for being grown-up white people without boring everyone with long rationalizations about how down they were," Joseph Schloss, author of "Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip Hop," wrote nearly a decade ago in "The Hip- Except when they actu- ally did apologize for some of their earlier homophobic and misogynist lyrics. This wasn't a Rush Limbaugh- style mea culpa. They didn't apologize that wom- en and gays took offense at what they said--the "I'm sorry you took umbrage at that really awful thing I said'--thereby putting the onus on the targets of the hateful comments for even reacting to them. Rather Yauch and the Beasties expressed true, sincere regret. Yauch fa- mously rapped, "I want to say a little something that's long overdue/The disre- spect to women has got to be through." This from a group that had once per- formed onstage alongside caged female dancers and a hydraulic-powered penis. And the Boys did more than give lip service to these feminist impulses; they acted on them. The group famously asked Prodigy not to perform the song "Smack My Bitch Up" at the Reading Festival. When the Beasties were criticized for this seem- ingly hypocritical stance, Yauch defended the move, saying they had begun changing the words when they performed old songs that had contained misogy- nistic lyrics. This was just one example of how deeply Boys' artistic and social progression was. Yauch created a suc- cessful template of how to evolve, not only as an artist but also as a human being. In addition to directing some of the most visually arresting and retro-in- flected Beastie Boys music videos under the alias Nathaniel Hornblower, he also created Oscilloscope Laboratories, an indepen- dent film production and distribution company that cultivated and released sev- eral critical hits, includ- ing the Oscar-nominated "The Message" and "Exist Through the Gift Shop." A practicing Buddhist, Yauch also founded the Mi- larepa Foundation, which raised money and aware- ness through the Tibetan Freedom Concerts. While this doesn't ex- actly sound like the work of your average yeshiva student, I have no problem with future generations of Orthodox boys pretending that the Beastie Boys had been their own. Yeshiva boys couldn't do much better than Adam Yauch as a role model. Dvora Meyers is the au- thor of the ebook "Heresy on the High Beam: Con- fessions of an Unbalanced Jewess," a memoir essay collection about Orthodox Judaism and gymnastics. New York Chasm By Ben Sales NEW YORK (JTA)--Sup- porters say he's an inno- cent man caught up in the tentacles of a corrupt Latin American regime. Authorities in Bolivia, however, allege that he's a shady businessman with ties to drug dealers and money launderers. What's certain is that Ja- cob Ostreicher, a 53-year- old Chasidic Jew from New York, is in a state of limbo, sitting in a jail in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz waiting to be tried or released on bail. Five weeks ago, in a bid to pressure authorities to expedite the handling of his case, Ostreicher began a hunger strike. "Every human rights violation is being broken in my case," he told JTA last week in a telephone interview from prison. "I have no alternative to get- ting my freedom unless I become ill and it becomes a humanitarian issue." The hunger strike he launched April 15 follows 10 months of appeals to the U.S. State Department. His wife, Miriam Ungar, organized a protest on Ostreicher's behalf on May 3 opposite Bolivia's United Nations mission. Ostreicher, a father of five from the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, belonged to a group of resorts l 00unger strike in Bolivian prison Courtesy Miriam Ungar Jacob Ostreicher investors led by Andre Zolty of the Swiss firm Lexinter that sunk $25 million into growing rice in lush eastern Bolivia. He was arrested last June by Bolivian police. During his arraignment, the judge alleged that Ostreicher did business with "people wanted in their countries because of links with drug trafficking and money laundering." The judge also deter- mined that Ostreicher should not be allowed to post bail because "being free, the accused could de- stroy [or] change evidence that could lead the attor- ney general to discover the truth." Since then Ostreicher, who maintains his inno- cence, has been waiting. He has cycled through multiple court hearings, three judges, three pros- ecutors and four defense attorneys. One judge re- leased him from jail in Sep- tember, only to retract the order and send him back less than a week later. As of now the case is without a judge. While the case has dragged on, some of the 40 million pounds of rice har- vested from Ostreicher's fields and later seized by the Bolivian government have begun to disappear. The head of the Bolivian agency in charge of seized property, Moises Aguilera, told The Associated Press in December that the rice had to be sold because otherwise it would spoil. But Ostreicher's partners accuse the Bolivian gov- ernment of trying to profit from the confiscated rice. "They're trying to put their hands on our as- sets," Zolty told JTA. "The lawyers are all corrupted." Transparency Interna- tional, a global corruption monitor, ranks Bolivia 118th out of 183 countries on governmental transpar- ency. Bolivian authorities have declined to discuss the details of the case publicly. "We sent inquiries re- garding this case to the Bolivian judicial system, but we haven't got any answer," Pablo Menacho, Bolivia's consular officer in Washington for political affairs, told JTA. Ostreicher's saga began when he joined Zolty's partnership in June 2008 and traveled to Bolivia to see the rice business firsthand. Over the course of several trips from 2008 to 2010, Ostreicher says he was never able to inspect the books of the Bolivian rice fields because the manager, Claudia Liliana Rodriguez Espitia, was never around. "She always gave ex- cuses," Ostreicher said. Eventually, Ostreicher said, he came to believe that Rodriguez was steal- ing millions of dollars from the investors. He convinced Zolty to fire Rodriguez, and Ostreicher took over the business. When Rodriguez disap- peared soon after leaving the venture, Ostreicher took out a full-page ad in a major local newspaper offering a $25,000 reward to whoever could find her. While police investi- gated Rodriguez for cor- ruption, they discovered that she had purchased a portion of the rice fields from the brother of her drug dealer boyfriend, Maximiliano Dorado. Bolivian federal pros- ecutors began to question Ostreicher in March 2011. He continued to travel back and forth to the United States, and approached the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia; Ostreicher says U.S. offi- cials told him not to worry. "The embassy told me I should be honest with the investigation. That's what I did," Ostreicher said. "I wish the U.S. Embassy had told me to get the hell out of the country." An embassy official told JTA that he could not comment on private con- versations. On the eve of Shavuot last year, when Ostreicher was scheduled to fly home to New York, prosecutors called him in for another round of questioning. Anx- ious to get home for the holiday, Ostreicher asked if he could come to their of- fice to finish the deposition as soon as possible. He ar- rived on June 3, responded to questions and thanked the prosecutor for adjust- ing his schedule. Moments later, Ost- reicher was arrested. The grandfather of 11 says he was shoved into a cell with no toilet or shower that stank of urine and feces. The next day at his arraignment, the judge charged Ostreicher with being "the representative of Andre Zolty" and hav- ing "commercial relations with Maximiliano Dorado, both people wanted in their countries because of links with drug trafficking and money laundering ... proving the circle between Andre Zolty, Maxi Dorado ... and Claudia Liliana Rodrfguez Espitia." Ostreicher claims he has given the court documen- tation proving the legal origin of his business' funds and submitted proof from Interpol that Zolty has never run afoul of the law. Bolivian authorities apparently were not con- vinced. In March, one federal prosecutor told AP that the case was still in its "preparatory phase." Ostreicher's wife says State Department officials have told the family only that they are monitoring the situation and have raised the case with the Bolivian foreign minister. By launching his hunger strike, in which he drinks only water, Ostreicher is trying to turn the case into a humanitarian issue. The family has not tried to en- list Jewish organizations to lobby on Ostreicher's behalf because they want it to be a diplomatic, not a parochial, issue. "I've never asked any- body for help," Ostreicher said. "My children are lying to my grandchildren that the reason I'm not coming home is that I have a farm and I need to take care of my cows. That's why I'm going to people I don't know."