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A video showing two Jewish girls rapping about the benefits of genetics testing has received a mixed response, which is a shande because it’s fantastic

May 25, 2016

Holy smokes! Frum girls are normal!

That, essentially, represents some of implications of the buzz behind a video of two anonymous Orthodox Jewish girls beatboxing and freestyling about their potential marriage prospects with Dor Yeshorim, an Orthodox genetic testing service. One headline described the occurrence as “weirdly talented rapping Orthodox girls star in illicit viral hit,” which left me speechless. The video, according to this article, “bubbled up through the dark net of Orthodox WhatsApp groups sometime Tuesday or Wednesday,” apparently without permission. Take a look for yourself.

Let’s get one thing straight: a “weird” talent would be if they spit rhymes upside-down underwater, inspiring sharks to convene and clap their fins together, creating the first oceanic hip-hop orchestra.

And “illicit viral hit?” Well, to be fair, Orthodox girls venting musically about their concerns over their future married life really is a controversial topic. After all, one would have to have been living under a rock for the past four decades or so to have never heard of that saucy “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” number from Fiddler.

A verse such as, “Doing this test to see if we’re a match/ And if it’s a yes, well I’m a really good catch/ Going on a date to look for a connection/ And under the chuppah, we’ll express our affection,” hardly seems like the stuff to send one’s heart aflutter. Perhaps “Let’s go back to kollel when we living on dimes/ Got a 2 bedroom ‘partment for us and 3 kids/ The kitchen’s so spacious, two people almost fit” was a bit too biting for some tastes?

And the chorus, for your consideration, according to Genius:

Did Dor Yeshorim,
Cause I got Dor Yeshorim,
Cause I got Dor Yeshorim,
Cause I did Dor Yeshorim,
Hey! Hey! My chosson did it too,
Hey! Hey! Cause he’s a good Jew [uh]

Catchy, eh?

Now as ludicrous I find it that a person could be wowed that, yes, Orthodox people are capable of being just as talented in literally all the ways that non-Orthodox people can be (insert refrain of “Anything You Can Do I Can Jew Better” here), there was a comment from the other side of the line that bothered me as well. After the girls discovered that the rap was put online without their knowledge, they reached out to Dor Yeshorim, calling them to apologize. Dor Yeshorim’s response?

“We are very disturbed about the whole video,” said Chaim Brown, marketing director for Dor Yeshorim, ostensibly doing his best impression of being the opposite of a good marketing director. “It is below our dignity as an organization to promote such a thing.”

According to Brown, the girls were also “very disturbed” that the video was made public. He would not share the names of the video’s stars, or the name of the school at which the video was filmed.

Disturbed, Mr. Brown? You’re “disturbed” by a song promoting the benefits of your organization to your, well, exact demographic? Really? You want to eschew young women who have the wherewithal to be concerned with their health and see value in your organization’s research efforts? Isn’t that the opposite of direct marketing?

But the quote that sticks out to me the most, which makes me scratch my head the hardest, which boils my blood to the point that my ears begin to whistle, is the mention of the word “dignity,” which the rap video apparently did not have and above which Dor Yeshorim sits.

Which begs the question: what is so indecent about the video? Ah, oh, right. They’re rapping. The rap. It’s the rap isn’t it?

Assuming this is true, this is why things like race, racism, and diversity awareness are a “Jewish problem.” When rap is looked down upon as something inherently “not Jewish,” or Latin music is described as “jungle animal music,” it represses valid outlets of creativity in our own communities. Not to mention the inherent insult, seeing how some of our communities are in those communities too.

And no, the outrage and shade isn’t because it’s not our holy traditional melodies. (Y’know, those holy traditional melodies which sound suspiciously completely identical to Cossack dances, Polish military marches, East European folk songs, and Central European waltzes and church hymns.)

How do I know this? Because on occasion I lead services. And in addition to the old standards, I also pull on a wide variety of sources for my cantorial tunes. Here are some of the tunes I’ve davened to:

“The Sand Volcano,” The Mummy (1999)

“Elena and Esperanza,” The Mask of Zorro (1997)

“On The Other Side Of The Mountain,” Final Fantasy VII (1997)

“Roses and Wine,” Final Fantasy VIII (1999)

“The Force Theme,” Star Wars (1977)

“At Wit’s End,” Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)

Number of times I’ve been yanked off the podium for singing disgraceful melodies: 0

Number of times the congregation has known the source: 0

Number of times it has cared: 0

Music is music. The only thing that makes it “Jewish” or not is how you use it. So calm down, Mr. “Below Our Dignity.”

And to the girls: keep rocking it. You are doing what Jews are supposed to be doing: melding the teachings of the old with the reality of the new, compromising neither and enhancing both. And that is a much-needed breath of fresh air in the religious world.

To quote Hevria’s Rochel Spangelthal: “So, Anonymous Awesomely Talented Orthodox Girls, just know that the world is thirsting for what you have to offer in whatever ways you’re willing to share. And those people telling you that there’s no room for that kind of stuff in Orthodox Judaism? They’re wrong.”

MaNishtana is the pseudonym of Shais Rishon, an Orthodox African-American Jewish writer, speaker, rabbi, and author of Thoughts From A Unicorn. His latest book is Ariel Samson, Freelance Rabbi.