Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Guest Post By Yoseph Robsinson, Ger From Jamaica - Some Background

I asked Yoseph Robinson, who Gruntig recently posted about, to write a guest post about his journey and how he discovered Yiddishkeit. It is an interesting introduction. Feel free to ask Yoseph any questions you have about his fascinating journey.
In Hollywood you would think we had it all, and in a manner of speaking, we did. I lived in Beverly Hills, I alternated between driving a Hummer, Bentley and a Jaguar convertible, and went to the wildest party scenes. I mean I went to Jamie Fox's house, I double dated with Jay Z, I met Shakheil O'neal, Kobe Bryant, Usher, Steve Harvey, and many, many others.

Holywood life, however, and the music industry included, could be summed up in one word: plastic. The stereotypes are accurate. The hip-hop music culture centers on money, girls, drugs, cars, money, jewelry, money, and EGO. I was leading a life of unabashed and unfettered self-indulgence. It was all-consuming and it was pointless.

We felt our talent and creativity entitled us to all the pleasures of the world and then some. Sure, we also worked hard but our arrogance and sense of entitlement knew no bounds. I'm a contemplative person by nature, and the hedonistic lifestyle was wearing me down psychically, and even physically. In addition, tensions in my music company were brewing and the loyalty of those closest to me were suspect.

I decided to leave the world of Hollywood behind and the only option was to make a total break from my previous life. I would say discovering Judaism was merely coincidental, but Hakadosh Baruch Hu, it seems, had a plan for me. The story is quite simple.. I walked into a book store and asked to buy a Bible. It turns out, I was in a Judaica store and I bought a Hirsch English edition of the Chumash. I was immediately hooked. I was moved, I was inspired, and I felt connected to something deeper and greater than anything I had ever encountered in my entire life.

I took Judaism classes for a period of two and a half years at Toras Hashem and the conversion itself was conducted by the Beis Din of North Hollywood headed by Rabbi Zvi Block. I live in Brooklyn, New York and I daven at the Agudas Israel of Ave L.

I am currently writing a memoir. It starts with my childhood in Jamaica, my street life in Brooklyn and then in Philly, my move to LA, and my journey to Judaism, which is ongoing. I hope my story can entertain, as well as inspire. I also hope that my circumstance can help facilitate communication and sensitivity between all races, cultures, and religions.

Thanks for reading and I hope you come along for the ride!

Yoseph Robinson
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Anonymous said...

I think it's an amazing story. My question is how are you perceived in both the Jewish world as well as Black community?

Menashe said...

Fascinating. What part of Torah do you enjoy most; what do you koch in?

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

As anon asked, I'd also be curious how you would react to the observations Jewminicana made here:

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for deciding to share your amazing story.
My question to you is whether or not you plan on utilizing your musical skills for good.
So many newly religious have brought over their musical talents to the side of kedusha and it seems like such a waste to disregard the talents that hashem has blessed you with. while I realize that there are those that argue that there is no holiness in hip hop/reggae i can tell you that these newly religious artists have helped so many of us make that same transition ourselves....but i guess that is a topic for another time.
so what are your thoughts on producing your old music but with a hechsher this time around?

Yoseph Robinson said...

I'd like to thank those of you for sending positive and encouraging remarks. My perception among both Jews and Blacks is a fascinating topic and will probably be the focus of at least one chapter in my upcoming book.

Jews and Blacks have a difficult time understanding my circumstance. Some have said, "It's hard enough being Black. Why on earth would you want to be Jewish also?"
I chuckle and say "what are they gonna do hate me twice as much?"
Also, there are many misconceptions, as well as prejudices on both sides that are revealed to me, and which are painful to hear. I do my best to communicate a positive message and always highlight the similarities we all possess as human beings.
Best wishes to all.

Yoseph Robinson

Anonymous said...

As a black convert myself, although from the bland world of suburbs, private schools and soccer games, I would like to add my 2 cents . . .

First, let me state that I come from a family with just about every ethinicity by way of marriage. I was raised to see people and that by way of hard work and being a good person other people would learn to see past skin color and just see the person. I read the list from the link in Dixie Yid's post, I think all of this comes down to attitude. When I visit a new community I can choose to focus on the people who stare or give me funny looks, Hashem yishmor, or I can choose to focus on all the people who are warm, welcoming and invite me to their home for a seuda. There is no doubt that there are many nisayonos that present themselves for me, but its all from Hashem. And I believe that what Hashem wants is for me to be ehrlich and to choose to see the good. So I focus on what I need to do, and by being sincere in my Yiddishkite, people who take the time to get to know only see the person, the Yid and not anything else. I think behavior is the best way to educate people, letting your deeds speak for you.

I also get alot of chizuk from something Rabbi Moshe Weinberger once said, "It is not a nisayon for Yirei Shamayim to respect other human beings." I reflect on this, and instead of letting unfortunate/offensive comments/incidents bother me I choose instead to daven for them that things should turn around for them and they should see the truth. Afterall, we are all one team.

Hatzlacha raba.

yaakov said...


bredren: shout about it, up an' down.

this is what it says in tehilim, and i wish you the best!

shalom uvracha