I met Yitz Jordan, aka Y-Love, in 2000 in Jerusalem at Ohr Sameach where we were both studying. He was an inspiration then and is an inspiration now. I couldn’t figure out why he chose to take on a religion that so often had me frustrated. But he loved it; Judaism spoke to him, and it is his truth. So he went for it.
Yitz grew up in East Baltimore, born to an Ethiopian mother and Puerto Rican father. He became interested in Judaism as a 7-year-old after seeing a commercial wishing everyone a Happy Passover. At age 14, he started wearing a kippah all the time and keeping Shabbat. He later moved to Israel to study and convert to Judaism.
Yitz found it difficult to study and balance English, Modern Hebrew, biblical Hebrew and Aramaic, so he and his chavruta (study partner) started rhyming to keep things together. From there it was an organic evolution into a rap/hip hop career.
Y-love albums feature his rapping in English, Hebrew, Arabic, Yiddish and some cross breeding of those languages. It’s almost reminiscent of growing up in my house with a grandfather who spoke Polish, a grandmother who spoke Hungarian and a grandmother who spoke French, all of whom could speak Yiddish. I knew a lot of curses; I just didn’t know what language I was using foul language in!
Last week Yitz spoke his truth again to the world. He came out of the closet in a very public way. He told Out.com, “I’m ready to find a husband; I’m ready to live without fear of being outed or the stress of keeping my whole self from people. And I’ve waited too long to do that.”
Focusing his coming out on his personal truth is the way he does it. I wouldn’t expect anything less.
Unfortunately, we live in a world in which this act will likely have negative repercussions. There are people who will speak out against him, people who are going to say his conversion is no longer good and who knows what else. But I believe that the love and support that Yitz will get from most everyone else will far outweigh the negative.
The Jewish community has as many viewpoints on homosexuality as it does on anything else. There are rightwing conservatives, liberal leftists and all us salt-and-pepper middle-of-the-roaders.
I hope everyone remembers — while they are labeling him “the black, gay, converted Jew, ex-Chassid, hip hop/rapper” — that he is a human
created in the image of God just like you and me. Isn’t that a simpler label?
I wish him the best in the next chapter in his life.
Y-love and DJ Diwon were both in Detroit last year for their headlining show of the Progressive Jewish Music Showcase at the Stephen Gottlieb Music Festival. Y-love is on the Shemspeed Label in New York, which is run by Diwon. www.ThisIsYlove.com.