Never again shall we march like sheep to the slaughter
Never again shall we sit and take orders
Stripped of our culture
Robbed of our name
Raped of our freedom and thrown into the flames
Forced from our families, taken from our homes
Moved from our God then burned of our bones
Never again, never again
These words were not lifted from a poetry anthology or a history textbook. They are the words of a new generation. They are the verses that form the chorus of a rap titled "Never Again" by Jewish hip-hop artist Remedy Ross.
Last week, Remedy, whose real name is Ross Filler, gave a free concert to 200 students at the University of Central Florida, rapping about such diverse topics as the Holocaust, the history of the Jewish people and 9/11. Hillel at UCF, in conjunction with Hip Hop Elements, UCF's student hip hop group, organized the campus-wide event, which was headlined by a local Jewish rapper who goes by the pseudonym of "Xodus Ph.D."
"I saw Remedy perform in Miami Beach at a synagogue, and I thought he would be good to bring to UCF to expose him and his message to the students on campus," said Alex Sigal, a sophomore who serves as a senator for UCF's Student Government Association. As a senator, Sigal was able to put a funding bill through the Senate, which paid for the event.
While Filler's medium may be perceived as rough around the edges, his intentions are largely educational.
"I spread the message of Israel and Judaism. I think it's important in general for people to know their identity, where they are from, and the history of their people," Filler said. "A lot of people stereotype me right away and assume that I'm a gimmick or a joke."
But Filler is the real thing. He has collaborated many times with the infamous Wu-Tang Clan, a group that pioneered the genre of hardcore rap, beginning in the early 1990s. In fact, Filler admits that he is often referred to as "the white Jew from Wu-Tang." The rapper grew up in Staten Island, where he befriended original clan members Method Man, Inspectah Deck and Raekwon the Chef. Filler, a former street hustler with little interest in Judaism, rediscovered his roots as a young adult, leading him to pen his Holocaust-themed rap, "Never Again."
The song, which was originally released on the Wu-Tang Clan's 1998 album, "The Swarm," has received worldwide attention for bringing the Holocaust to the contemporary masses.
"Pretty soon all the people who were directly involved in the Holocaust won't be around anymore, so it's up to the youth of today to keep the message alive," Filler said.
Eric Grynspan, a junior at UCF who attended the concert, agreed.
"It was different. I've never seen anything like this on a college campus. He's got charisma," he said.
"This was a unique opportunity to show the diversity of the Jewish people," said Ben Sack, who organized the event with Sigal. "The concert exposed Judaism to a diverse group of students in a way than Hillel has been unable to do in the past."
Sack, who serves as the president of Hillel at UCF, is also excited about Hillel's partnership with Hip Hop Elements, led by UCF student Luis Caraballo. Sack believes that the co-sponsorship will allow Hillel to reach a broader cross-section of both Jewish and non-Jewish students.
"Hillel is constantly trying to bring Judaism to the students, and I think we really hit the bullseye with this event," Sack said. "Standing backstage and listening to Remedy talk to a crowd filled with Hillel and Elements students about the importance of Israel is something I will not soon forget."
So what did this former street hustler hope to impart on his audience?
"A strong identity and the wanting to visit Israel," he said.