Posts Tagged ‘Bible Raps’

The Fire Of Memory

November 30, 2010

I know I’m going out on a limb right now, just as all those fun Hanukkah videos are making their social networking rounds. After reading what I have to say here, you might starting calling me the Grinch (or a worse word that kinda rhymes with “grinch”) Who Stole Hanukkah. That’s fine with me – the Gen X Yiddishe Mamme has to speak her mind.

I’m a fan of and of Bible Raps (just search for them on this blog – you’ll find several posts mentioning each). However, the Hanukkah song and video offered to us jointly by them, “Light Is In The Air (More Fire),” is adding to my worry about the apparently extremely short historical memory of young Jews today.

True to its name, Bible Raps, focuses on transmitting biblical narratives to children, teens and young adults through rap music. So, I have no problem with the lyrics of the song, which talk about references to fire in the Torah (the Burning Bush, God appearing in the desert as a pillar of fire, Temple sacrifice).

What I find disturbing are some of the images: a book of Torah (specifically, a book with Rashi commentary) burning, a Jewish person standing in a tight circle of fire, and large explosions and even mushroom clouds. I get it – despite what the Hellenist Greeks tried to do to us, we prevailed and the fire of Torah learning still resides within us.

But, excuse me, have the makers of the video never heard about the burning of Jewish books by those who sought to destroy us and our traditions in various dark times in our people’s history? Did the story of Haninah Ben Teradion being immolated by the Romans, the burning of Jews at the stake by the Inquisition, or the Nazi crematoria not come to mind? How could more recent news items of Jews dying in Israeli buses exploded by suicide bombers or the nuclear threat Iran poses to Israel not have set off a self-sensoring (aka anti-bad taste) mechanism?

There’s a warning at the end of the video – it says, “Warning: The fire stunts in this video are dangerous and should not be attempted in place of traditional Menorah lighting! No Bibles, Bible Rappers or Jew Fros were burned in the making of this video.” It’s good to know that this video making business is all make-believe. But what these guys don’t seem to appreciate is that many, many Jewish holy texts and human beings (curly haired and otherwise) have been burned for real.

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

Hip Hop Help

April 12, 2010

For all the old fogey Jewish educators like me (ie. anyone over the age of 30), it’s a relief to know that help is on the way.

Photo of mural from

We know that it’s important to meet our students where they are, to speak their language. But that can be problematic when we are not well versed in their cultural vernacular. For instance, it is common practice these days is to have students explore a topic or demonstrate their understanding of material through modes of expression that are familiar, that come naturally to them. One such mode is rap and/or hip-hop music (I am not one to know the finer nuances between the two) – one that the kids feel totally comfortable with, but which many of us pre-Millennials can barely understand (I mean literally – I’m lucky if I can make out every fifth word in a rap song).

Well, we teachers need no longer avoid this musical genre for fear of making fools of ourselves in front of our students, or worry about depriving them of an authentic hip hop Jewish educational activity. We just need to call out, “Bible Raps to the rescue!” (or better yet, contact them through their website), and leave it to the professionals to give the kids the rap experience they deserve. What a mechayah to just sit back and relax and let Matt Barr, Ori Salzberg and team do their thing and help the members of your class (or family education group, or Hillel house, or…) study traditional Jewish text and turn their understanding and interpretation of it into a quality hip hop recording (video or mp3).

Here are two of their impressive productions. Both are with Camp Ramah groups, and both show some serious Jewish learning taking place:

For more information on The Bible Raps Project and its supporters, visit its website at and

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.