Nissim’s raps bring holiday joy to Chanukah Wonderland.
Suzanne Chessler Contributing Writer
The rapper known as Nissim was raised by parents who gave him career direction through their rapping careers, but he had to establish personal stability on his own.
Nissim experimented with different religious practices to find the spirituality he felt was missing from his life and became inspired by Judaism. At 31, he happily looks back on converting with his wife in 2010. They are raising their five children in Jerusalem.
As Nissim continues rapping, his performances reflect his religious transformation. The entertainer brings his lyrics to Chanukah Wonderland, where the musical rhythms setting the background for his words will be presented on recordings.
The rapper will perform at 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, at Orchard Mall in West Bloomfield as part of the event that runs Dec. 2-6. Now in its 10th year, the programming includes crafts, activities and holiday food for participants of all ages.
“Chanukah is about miracles in the midst of darkness,” says Nissim, who tours to many distant cities. “It’s almost like my whole life. I love Chanukah, and I love the season. It feels that God is so present at this time of year.”
Chanukah Wonderland is under the direction of the Sara and Morris Tugman Bais Chabad Torah Center in West Bloomfield.
“Our goal at the Chanukah Wonderland is for people to celebrate and share in the joys of their Jewish heritage and traditions,” says Rabbi Shneur Silberberg, outreach director at the Torah Center as he co-directs the holiday celebration with his wife, Zeesy.
“Sadly, there’s been a whole lot of hate going around recently, and the tragedy in Pittsburgh was a sad reminder of the horrific impact hate can lead to. Chanukah — along with the Wonderland — provides an opportunity to enjoy a holiday that celebrates the victory of good over evil and that emphasizes our ability to work together to bring light to the darkness.”
The days of holiday fun will include some 30 activity opportunities. Among them are what has been billed as the world’s biggest dreidel-shaped moon bounce, a hands-on olive oil-making demonstration, doughnut- and latke-making opportunities and the design of socks to keep and give to Yad Ezra.
A Home Depot workshop will introduce youngsters to lots of tools as they learn to build wooden crafts. On Sunday morning, “Caffeine for the Soul” will be served. Chef Cari will prepare delicious kosher fare from her food truck on Monday afternoon.
The event, decorated with images from the Jewish News Chanukah Art Contest, will feature the selection of winners and the distribution of awards during the finale, when there also will be the lighting of a 12-foot menorah and the serving of soup, latkes and doughnuts.
“I focus my performance a lot on celebrating life,” says Nissim, who was given the birth name of Damian Jamohl Black and originally performed under the name D. Black. “I try to keep people excited and happy. I want the joy of the holiday to be in the performance and the hearts of the people.
“Music usually reflects a person’s outlook, and I talk about my own experiences through what I have written. Since I’ve changed outside the music, it’s changed the music. I converted trying to find the truth so I can live my life to that truth. In my doing so, I spent a lot of time on the Chabad website, and I feel closer to God.”
Nissim, who is making his debut in Michigan, performs in English with an occasional Hebrew word.
“Judaism has changed my life in almost every way possible and has brought structure to my life that wasn’t there before,” he says. “It encourages people to engage in family life and grow in a healthy way.”
Nissim does not write every day because he spends time in learning and meditating. His writing usually takes place during days when he has accepted studio work.
The rapper explains that his most recent recording, “King of the World,” expresses the grandeur of God. Earlier religious recordings include “The Black Miracle” and “Hashem Melech 2.0.”
“A Million Years” provides an example of how he expresses the essence of his life through rap:
I came from a place where everything was different
And I called out to you, and you showed me that you listen.
From there, we became best friends, and I gave my life to you.
You showed me who I am.
Chanukah Wonderland runs Sunday-Thursday, Dec. 2-6, at the Orchard Mall in West Bloomfield. Thursday’s concert tickets are $5 per child; $10 in advance and $15 at door. (248) 207-5513; firstname.lastname@example.org; chanukahwonderlandmi.com.