The Haredi rapper Nissim Black, once considered for the role of Biggie Smalls in the biopic film Notorious, found his family the target of discrimination within their religious community in Israel. According to Black, schools have refused to admit his children as students due to their skin color, which led him to seek the counsel of the Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky. Black recently recounted the episode on Jerusalem’s religious radio station Kol Chai.
An article in The Yeshiva World quotes Black’s comments in the radio interview:
“My children were at home and not at school because there was no school that received them … We tried to get our 10-year-old into a school that fits our Hashkafa and they rejected us because of our skin color.”
The article later quotes Black saying, “they do not accept us to school because of the color of my children, they tell me that explicitly.”
Nissim was born Damien Black, a second generation rapper, the son of James Croone of the Emerald Street Boys, considered Seattle’s first hip hop group, and Mia Black of the Emerald Street Girls. Raised as a non-practicing Sunni Muslim, Black converted to Christianity in his early adolescence and in his late teens put out his first record under the name D. Black, earning him critical success as a part of Seattle’s gangster rap scene.
A spiritual crisis led Black first towards Christian “Messianic Judaism” and away from violent music and eventually to convince his wife to study Torah together, which put them on the path to becoming religious Jews. In 2012 the couple converted to Judaism. The same year he joined the Hasidic community Black moved with his wife and 5 children to Israel where he’s continued recording music and last year competed in the tv show Ha’Kochav Ha’ba, a popular Israeli singing competition.
But after six years in Israel, racial discrimination targeting Black’s children led him to seek a meeting with Rav Chaim, as the spiritual leader and authority in Jewish law is known to his followers. The conversation between the two men is described in The Yeshiva World article.
Black declined to elaborate on the full conversation, and only said Rav Chaim’s eyes said everything, and that the first sentence Rav Chaim told him is “being ‘Black’ is your Mayla (Virtue) not a Chesaron (Lacking).”
Black added that “for a second it felt like the whole world stood still.”
An eyewitness reported that Rav Chaim gave Black a warm bracha.
Later in the article Black is quoted saying, “God forbid, the children will know…We do not tell our children and in the meantime they think we are still looking for the best school for them.”