Seattle rapper Nissim, formerly known as D. Black, last weekend fulfilled a dream he has had since converting to Judaism three years ago – making Israel his home.
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Immediately after landing Ben Gurion International Airport, Nissim spoke of "the last piece missing to complete the puzzle of my life -- the land of Israel. . .God, Israel, and the Jewish people are one comprehensive unit, so when you have one piece without the others, it's an incomplete puzzle."
Nissim, his wife Adina, and their five children landed in Israel on a Nefesh B’Nefesh flight. Even though he had visited Israel previously, he was filled with excitement "It feels amazing to be here and finally realize the dream," he said. "It's crazy to see my children here, because the first time I was in Israel I was alone, and now sharing the experience with my family is much more important to me.”
Adina (formerly Jamie) was very excited about the occasion, but adimtted that she was skeptical in the beginning.
"I did not really go along with it," she said. "Two years ago my husband was here on a visit, and he wanted to move to Israel the very same day. Of course I was a bit skeptical. This is my first time in Israel, but I love it already. This is a decision we reached together, and thank God, I'm very happy with it. " He adds: "A lot of prayers were required for that."
He was born 28 years ago as Damian Black in the Seward Park area of Seattle, Washington, to a downtrodden African-American family. His world was, he said, full of drugs and violence. He translated his daily experiences to songs about drugs, gangs and everything in between. The music, he said, was an escape from a life of violence and crime around him, and he was doing pretty well in the rap scene, with N album that reached number 12 on Amazon's charts.
D. Black's path to Judaism was hardly a straight line. In 2008 his friend was murdered during a dispute with rivals in nightclub where he frequently performed. This trauma began a journey of a personal search for religion, faith and God.
Nissim, who as a boy was brought up by his grandfather as Muslim, came to religion "at various stages in his life," he says. "My grandfather was a Sunni Muslim, and he educated me when I was young. Then he was sent to prison and my friends introduced me to Christianity, but with Judaism it was different. You have to pursue it and look for it and look deep within. The other two are easy: they invite you and welcome you, like free money. But in Judaism you have to work for abundance. That is how you keep the money over time. "
Nissim – D. Black – said he chose his name with help "from above". "We had to choose a name for conversion, and I got there early (which was a miracle in itself), and I looked for a siddur. Someone offered me the name Nissim, but I debated about a different name. I talked to God, and I looked at the clock, and it was almost time for the minha prayer. So I took the prayer book and it had Nissim written on it - and that was it. "
Adina said that what her name signifies her personal goals for the future: "I strive to be gentle, that is the meaning of the name, and I aspire to be gentle every day with my kids, my husband, and simply gentle in general."
Nissim and his family plan to live in Jerusalem and continue to make music, film a new music video, and go on tour around the world. "We're going to shoot a new video clip in Safed and Tiberias for my new song 'Zman Cheiruteinu', then I have a concert with Gad Elbaz and and a concert in March at Brooklyn College, and I definitely plan to go back and tour the United States."