Jerusalem-Based Rapper Nissim Black to Make Cleveland Debut on December 17 at the Grog Shop

Cleveland-based Rekindle has booked the socially conscious concert

click to enlarge Nissim Black. - Courtesy of Nissim Black
Courtesy of Nissim Black
Nissim Black.
As its name suggests, Rekindle, a relatively new non-profit in Cleveland, aims to “rekindle” the partnership between the Black and Jewish communities that existed during the Civil Rights Movement, a time when rabbis walked in solidarity with Martin Luther King Jr.

“We want there to be a modern Civil Rights movement that’s fighting for social justice and the only way to do that is for the two groups work together,” says Rekindle co-founder Matthew Fieldman in a recent Zoom call, who adds that the group has just graduated the fifth cohort of fellows (meaning that 70 people have now graduated from the program).

To increase awareness about its cause, the group has booked rapper Nissim Black to perform on Saturday, Dec. 17, at the Grog Shop.

Since Black, a veteran rapper who converted to Judaism a few years, ago, was on a U.S. tour, the group reached out to his booking agency in the effort to bring him to Cleveland for the first time.

“He encapsulates the best of both cultures,” says Fieldman of Black. “He is a rapper and comes from the hip-hop world. His rap has Jewish themes to it. We want to do this as part of a continued journey of bringing the two cultures together.”

Prior to the concert, Black will visit the Rock Hall and spend Shabbat in the Jewish community. Fieldman says the concert will likely be the first of many Rekindle events featuring prominent Black Jews.

Born Damian Jamohl Black, Black grew up in a musical household and put out his first official recordings when he was only 13. A former gang member, he chronicles his troubled youth in songs such as "Mothaland Bounce."

Black, who began running a hip-hop label when he was only 18, changed his stage name to Nissim Black after his conversion. As Nissim Black, he’s released a number of socially conscious albums and singles.

His latest mixtape, Love Notes, features everything from ballads such as “Win” to pop-inspired numbers like “Best Friend” and "Hold Me Down." All the while, Black, who currently lives in Jerusalem, shows off his rapid-fire delivery and ability to alternate between singing and rapping.

“[Black] will be here to spread his message of perseverance and love and hope,” says Fieldman. “Resilience is a theme of all of this. He found something in Judaism that spoke to him. A lot of us are just born into our religion. He looked at numerous religions and chose Judaism. It’s valuable for white Jews to think about our religion and our values. That’s the conversation he sparks. He asks, ‘Are you living the values you espouse and what your message is in the world?’”

The concert also serves as a kickoff for the recruiting of Rekindle’s sixth cohort, which will launch in Spring of 2023.

“We’re really focusing on local collaborative action,” says Fieldman. “We’re volunteering for some local nonprofits and doing some local social change work together that will hopefully make a better Cleveland for everyone.”
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