Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rapper Takes Shyne to Torah and Israel

I have no idea what this all means, but it sure makes for interesting reading. Belize-born rapper Shyne, born Jamal Michael Barrow, is the son of the Prime Minister of Belize and an Ethiopian Jewish mother. His smash hip hop debut album was followed closely by a conviction and 10-year prison sentence, on charges resulting from a notorious 1999 Bronx night club shootout that occurred while Shyne was in the company of Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs and Jennifer Lopez. Shyne underwent a prison conversion to Orthodox Judaism, adopted the Hebrew name Moshe Levy Ben-David, and now wears Belzer Chasidic garb and studies Talmud in a Jerusalem yeshiva. Oh, and he still records for Def Jam Records. Read all about it in the Jerusalem Post.

UPDATE, Friday, Nov. 12: In light of the welcome reader comment from reader Chaya Gabriela Bat-Avraham, I should clarify that by the phrase "prison conversion," I did not mean that Moshe Levi Ben-David converted to Judaism from another religion or even from no religion. I was using the term in its colloquial sense, to describe someone who becomes religiously observant while in prison, a phenomenon seen among Christian and Muslim prisoners (l'havidil, to differentiate) as well as among Jewish ones.

Mr. Ben-David is not a convert. As the grandson of an Ethiopian Jewish woman, his mother is Jewish and he is Jewish, because Judaism descents through the maternal line. Mr. Ben-David was born a Jew and has always been a Jew, even when he was not religiously observant. That is the unique, dualistic nature of Judaism: we are both a people and a religion. One may either be born into the Jewish nation or enter it by choice, through conversion, but in either case one is a member of the Jewish people. Moshe Levi is my Jewish brother, Amare' Stoudemire is my Jewish brother, and Chaya Gabriela is equally my Jewish sister, the first two by birth and the last by adoption, so to speak.

Rav Ovadiah Yosef, the former Sefardic Chief Rabbi/Rishon L'Tzion of Israel, ruled that Ethiopian Jews are Jews, but owing to their long separation from Am Yisroel, the Jewish people, which appears to predate the Mishna and the Talmud, the sources of halacha, Jewish law, he ruled that they should undergo a symbolic conversion when they arrived in Israel. Mr. Ben-David went through that ceremony, but halachically he was born a Jew.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kosher Hedgehog,
Why do you say "I don't know what this all means" about what, by all evidence available, appears to be a sincere convert to Judaism? As an observant yid, you know better....if you don't have something positive to say about Moses Levi Ben-David, then don't say anything at all.
Thank you for allowing me to share this with you and your readers.
Chaya Gabriela Bat-Avraham, a sincere and kosher convert in NYC

Thursday, November 11, 2010 4:25:00 PM  
Blogger The Kosher Hedgehog said...

Chaya Gabriela Bat-Avraham, my sister: When I said, "I don't know what all this means," I meant "I don't know what all this means." Our blog is primarily political and social observations, as the mission statement at the top implies. In this case, I found the story to be of such consuming interest that I wanted to bring it to the attention of our readers, and yet at the same time I was uncharacteristically at a loss of words, as far as social observations go. I certainly did not intend to imply anything negative, or even neutral, about Moshe Levi Ben-David, or the sincerity of his yihadut. If anything I wrote gave that impression, I sincerely regret it and apologize.
Indeed, it may not even be correct to describe Mr. Ben-David as a convert. Rav Ovadiah Yosef ruled that Ethiopian Jews are Jews, but also ruled that a symbolic conversion is necessary due to the lengthy separation of Ethiopian Jewry from Am Yisrael, the Jewish people at large, which apparently predates the Talmud.
Thank you for visiting our blog and contributing a comment. I hope you see this response Please come back often.

Friday, November 12, 2010 12:04:00 PM  

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