(NEW YORK) — The Jewish community has been reeling from recent anti-Semitic comments made by Ye, formerly known as Kayne West, that have brought the rapper and designer into a storm of controversy.
Ye has been outspoken and controversial for decades. Yet his recent actions, including a string of anti-Semitic remarks and a stunt in which he showed up to a fashion show wearing a shirt that read “White Lives Matter,” have led to even his most devoted fans and collaborators, including designers Balenciaga and Adidas, taking a step back.
The rapper has also been spreading misinformation about the murder of George Floyd, leading the family to consider filing a lawsuit against the artist earlier this fall.
“Since this has happened, it’s been very, very tough for me,” Israel-based rapper Nissim Black told ABC News correspondent Ashan Singh.
The rapper, who is an orthodox Jewish Black man, spoke with Singh on the latest episode of “IMPACT x Nightline” about Ye’s downfall.
“It’s been very tough for me because he was one of my favorites, all-time,” said Black. “I felt very let-down.”
A number of activists within the Jewish community spoke in a roundtable discussion about the intersections of Jewish identity, Black identity and the impact of Ye’s inflammatory comments.
“I would say that I was a fan of Kanye West and I grew up on his music,” said Israeli-rights activist Rudy Rochman.
“I’m not wearing his shoes anymore and I’m not listening to his music,” said Rochman. “That is my personal choice. I think there’s a certain level where you have to decide how much respect you have for yourself.”
“I think it’s really important for us to call out hurtful, anti-Semitic rhetoric and then look at the individual as well,” said Yolanda Savage-Narva, assistant vice president of Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion for the Union for Reform Judaism.
“We have to understand how these things manifest themselves,” she said, “and how as activists at this table, we do what we need to do to root them out and to move our communities, our collective communities, in the right direction.”
Kosha Dillz, a Jewish rapper known for his appearances on MTV’s Wild ‘n Out, released a diss track last month in response to Ye’s comments called “Death Con 3.”
“It was a big bummer,” Dillz told ABC News about the remarks. “Cause– I play Kanye. You know?” And now, he said, “he’s gone.”
According to the Anti-Defamation League, antisemitic incidents in the U.S. are at an all-time high, up 34% from 2020 to 2021 with more than 2,700 incidents happening last year.
“Did I ever hear him say racist things about people? Never,” Jason Lee, one of his former employees who quit this fall, told ABC News. Lee was the head of media and partnerships for Ye’s latest album.
But, Lee said, he noticed the rapper “didn’t have a regard for the impact of his words on social media because he was blinded with emotion from his divorce or for other things.”
Beth Kean, the CEO of the Holocaust Museum in Los Angeles, pointed out that “Kanye has over 30 million social media followers. That is twice as many Jews living on this Earth.”
“How can you use your platform to fuel hatred like that?” she said.
The Holocaust Museum extended an invitation for Ye to visit and to “understand just how words can incite horrific violence and genocides,” they wrote in a public statement. Ye declined the invitation publicly on a podcast.
Participants in the roundtable recounted the ongoing impact of the 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the deadliest antisemitic attack on U.S. soil.
“My brother and my niece and nephew live down the street from the Tree of Life Synagogue,” said arts and culture journalist Justin Joffe. “I remember in the aftermath of that shooting it felt very real to me.”
“To know at that age that a sector of the country hates you and doesn’t think you have a right to exist,” he said, referring to his young nieces, “is not something anybody in this country should have to grow up with.”
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