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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

A tale of two Rosh Hashanah videos

The NJOP released their Rosh Hashanah video earlier this week to applause from many people in my circle. In fact, people I know worked on it, so I watched it and it didn’t set well. To make sure I wasn’t just being a hater or short tempered, I took a couple days and watched it a few more times. With every watch, it still bothered me.

Heres the video and commentary that I drafted yesterday.

While I loved the shabbat parody/remake that NJOP did with Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night, I’m not in love with the Rosh Hashanah video. In fact, it makes me uncomfortable.

I’ve watched it a few times and not blogged about it, because I thought I was overreacting, because friends worked on it, because everyone else I know loved it… but I just don’t.

1. Diversity. There is some diversity in dress (which among Jews can say a lot) pants vs skirt, kippah vs hat… but where, oh where, are the Jews of Color?

2. I’m bothered that they did a parody of a song that has the word nigger in it. Not because hip hop shouldn’t use the word or because I don’t enjoy the original song, but because every time I hear the phrase “soul bigger”, I also hear the phrase from the original that is “broke nigger.”

This paragraph is probably the first time in my whole life I’ve ever written the N word out. I never say it. When I sing along to songs with that word in it, I don’t think I say it (come eavesdrop on me sometime… maybe I do).

3. Shallow level of doing good. A woman stops spending all her money on the home shopping network and starts giving apples to homeless people. Small acts of kindness are important, but the acts in this video are so shallow… good for children, but this is made for an adult audience. Show a bigger act of tzedakah.

4. Gospel music. There are Jews who perform Jewish gospel, why not actually have them in the video instead of the lip-dub? This video could have rocked with Joshua Nelson and the Kosher Gospel Choir doing something. Or why not get a Jewish musician to write something totally original and catchy? It can be done, ask any of the musicians who did a G-dcast episode.

I wanted to love this video, I really did. Kol hakavod to NJOP for all the online outreach they do, but I hope the next one uses Jewish artists writing original music, shows more diversity and digs a little deeper.

Then today I got on Facebook and saw that G-dcast, referenced in point four, released their Rosh Hashanah video.

Recorded by Prodezra, an [independent] musician with Shemspeed where my friends Ylove and Kosha Dillz are managed, and animated by the G-dcast animators, this presents the torah portion we read on RH, goes deeper into the issues of sacrificing Isaac and is entirely new music for the holiday. Prodezra is one of three black Jewish artists that I can think of off the top of my head – him, Ylove and Joshua Nelson.

The Jewish people are diverse. We aren’t just Ashakanazi or Sephardic. We are also black, latino, asian, rural, urban, gay, straight, pansexual, observant and secular. As we go into the New Year, I hope that all Jews work on expanding their worldview to include all Jews just as we work towards peace.

(I’m included in that, I need to remember there are Jews who were born Jews. We aren’t all converts.)

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