View attachment 41413 Damian Black grew up in a gangster's paradise. Living in Seattle, where his family ran a drugs den, was rough. His cupboard was used to grow marijuana and he started smoking it aged 10. Two years later, he was dealing and owned his first gun.
At 13, he started rapping about his life using the name D.Black, releasing records such as You Need a Thug.
But that's all behind him. Now 27, he goes by the name Nissim having converted to Orthodox Judaism - and he's been talking about his conversion to London students.
He says: "As a little boy, I always knew God existed. I wanted to have a connection. Something inside me wanted to be close to God.
"I really wanted to scream out and find out what God was, what the truth was. The way I came to Judaism was by praying. I found Hashem to be the best shrink in the whole entire world. All I wanted was to be close to Hashem."
He recalls reading the Koran with his grandfather who converted to Islam in prison, where he died last year. He even remembers attending an evangelical youth camp and messianic church.
But, after consulting Google and coming across websites from Chabad to Aish, he says: "I began to love the things Hashem loves and disdaining what Hashem disdained. One thing I could not get over, was Hashem's relationship with the Jewish people.
"As an outsider, it's very hard to just sit there and say you don't want to be a part of it. I was receiving so much light from that love.
"Judaism wasn't presented to me as an option, I had to chase after it.
"I don't have the option to blend in. I can't be the same colour as everyone else so I had to focus on the learning and the davening. Those things are the unifying factors of Judaism. I didn't want my colour to hold me back."
Nissim, which means "miracles", says his Jewish journey started seven years ago, after his friend shot at a rival rapper in a club and he had his first child. The two events sparked him to throw away his rap records and find inspiration in Sephardic music.
He got a job in social services, visits the mikveh every morning, prays in Hebrew and wants to make aliyah.
He now attends the Sephardic Bikur Holim synagogue and prays with the people he once admittedly mistook for the Amish. This week, he spoke at Immanuel, Hasmonean and performed at the Jewish Learning Exchange.
Rabbi Dov Cowan, an educator at the JLE in Golders Green, said: "He has a message that is truly inspirational. Here is a man who had it all set up to be a massive rap star, with all the trappings of that lifestyle that so many young kids want to emulate. But he chose a different path and in Judaism he found the meaning and happiness that he was always looking for."
The Jewish Chronicle Online/Oct. 31, 2014
Dear Drugs-Forum readers: We are a small non-profit that runs one of the most read drug information & addiction help websites in the world. We serve over 4 million readers per month, and have costs like all popular websites: servers, hosting, licenses and software. To protect our independence we do not run ads. We take no government funds. We run on donations which average $25. If everyone reading this would donate $5 then this fund raiser would be done in an hour. If Drugs-Forum is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online another year by donating whatever you can today. Donations are currently not sufficient to pay our bills and keep the site up. Your help is most welcome. Thank you.