As a Jew growing up, first in Israel and then in New Haven Connecticut, at times I felt inundated by the big H….The Holocaust. In Israel I was taught to always remember the people who were sent helplessly to their slaughter. However, at times the narrative was a bit scathing due to their macho society. Israelis, or the settlers who were in the land of Palestine before 1947, formed this rugged, mighty, chiselled out of a solid block of granite persona of the NEW JEW! This new Jew was to be the antithesis of that timid, nebbishy, hunchbacked, long bearded Rabbi looking Jew who stayed in the Shtetl. To this very day, in places ranging from neighborhoods in Brooklyn to neighborhoods in Israel, you still feel that the Ultra-Orthodox are also clinging to the last visages of the Shtetl. They still seem to carry the old world on their backs while maintaining a close mind, which to me is a form of a mental Shtetl, or better yet the ghettoization of the Jewish mind.
Jews who perform in the art form of rap music, and participate in Hip-Hop also carry this baggage at times. Many of these artists usually do not focus their art on a remembrance of the Holocaust. However, there are some who have, and there are some who use the Nazi imagery. The reason for Jewish use of Nazism can be two-fold. It can be a Jewish way of shaking the ghosts of the Nazis, while still addressing the horrors coming from the smoke stacks bellowing out heaps of human smoke, ripped from the flesh of Jewish men, women, and children. Our generation, me included as I write with my specific set of experiences, is conflicted when it comes to the topic. It can a nuisance, just as some of the Holocaust survivors were to the Zionists when they came to the land after the Second World War. For us it shows a period where weakness was the norm for Jews who were treated like sheep to the slaughter. History shows that this was not the case, as many Jews rebelled in their own way in order to maintain their dignity, religion and very soul. As I said, my generation can feel this way, while also feeling a sense of Holocaust “Fatigue” as it is termed. This means that people, both Jews and non-Jews, are getting sick and tired of being constantly pounded about the horrors of the Holocaust. I might sympathize, but then again we still have people, and worldly leaders, disavowing the Holocaust and its true impact of Jewish destruction. Certain Muslim narratives complain that Israel was a consolation for the Holocaust. They further argue,wearing their victim’s masks, that they had nothing to do with the horrors therefore they are not culpable. However, under close source studies you find plenty of Muslims who openly collaborated with the Nazis.
Another way my generation has addressed the issues of the Holocaust is through the use of rap music. Certain Jews use the grit and sheer rawness of Hip-Hop in order to tell their sordid tales of loss and hope. One fine example of this is a Jewish MC by the name of Remedy. Remedy, who’s real name is Ross Filler, is part of the Wu-Tang’s extended family hanging with the likes of Killa Army, Sonz of Man, Sheyheim the Rugged Child, and a few more acts associated with the Wu. Like Eazy-E, the RZA took a liking to Remedy and his content. This would lead to a track of his appearing on the first volume of the sampler, Wu-Tang: Killa Beezs – The Swarm, Volume 1.
One of Remedy’s most popular songs to date is about the Holocaust titled “Never Again.”
This slogan has been used across the board by all Jews across the globe. Never again will we be victims, or allow others to persecute us because of our beliefs. The weight of Jewish history doesn’t allow us to forget all the massacres, exiles, blood libels, debates turned sour, inquisitions, pogroms, etc. etc. Enough is enough, and with the creation of Israel there came a source of toughness and pride, because nothing’s tougher than the Israeli Defense Forces.
The song opens with an elderly man calling all his fellow with the Savri Meranan (where all the men answer amen as they are about to sanctify the blessing over the Wine and Shabbat), and then into a salvo of pain. He then goes through the horrors and oppression that is personified by the Holocaust. He weaves the narrative of the torment that these people went through as they were thrown into ghettos, then led to the cramped trains, and sent to the concentration camps or worse, the death camps. The visuals are mixed with the images of the Nazis and the great films depicting the Nazi regime at its apex. He then follows the many, and very known, images of Jews being beaten, shoved, rounded up, shot, and any other film footage that further conveys the message.
It is interesting the way rap music’s powerful energy is laced with a Jewish message. This is a perfect example of another culture, or at least people from other cultures, ethnicities or religions taking up the Hip-Hop mantle. This combination of Jewish anger, frustration and angst is channeled in a historically Jewish way. This is but one fine example, as there are more, where a Jewish MC directly tackles the issue of the Holocaust using one of the best tools, Hip-Hop.