When a messianic Jewish Web site was launched this week using the logo and format of a popular Jewish blog, suspicious eyes turned to rapper-provocateur 50 Shekel, a onetime Orthodox Jew who a few months ago emerged as a Jew for Jesus.
The rapper, who now prefers to use his given name, Aviad Cohen, was quick to distance himself from the site, which is called TrueJewschool.com and originally employed an embellished version of the logo used by Jewschool.com. Corroborating his story was Dixie Lawrence, a member of a Louisiana messianic group in whose name the new site was registered. Lawrence told the Forward that she began the site for her group’s use, and had asked a local teenager to create a logo — which was initially little more than the Jewschool logo with the word “true” stamped above it. She said she changed the logo once it was brought to her attention that it had been lifted.
But Jewschool editor-in-chief Daniel Sieradski is having none of it. Sieradski, who goes by the online moniker Mobius, posted a lengthy essay on Jewschool in which he accused the rapper of being the force behind the new site. He later told the Forward that TrueJewschool seemed to him to be the product of a personal vendetta. “He had a friend launch TrueJewschool, duplicating our logo, overall look and feel to imply Jews for Jesus is true Judaism and we at Jewschool are practicing false Judaism.”
Jewschool and Cohen have been trading barbs for some time.
After the rapper’s breakout hit,” In da Shul” (a spoof of rapper 50 Cent’s “In da Club”), Jewschool was consistent in its criticism of the rapper’s music and the way that mainstream Jewish culture had embraced him. The rapper, in turn, responded with criticisms of the blog. Tensions rose further still in June when Heeb magazine music critic Arye Dworkin, writing on the bangitout.com Web site, argued that criticism from some in the Jewish world had left the rapper susceptible to overtures from Jews for Jesus. (Online and in a conversation with the Forward, Jewschool’s editor said he was sorry if this was the case.)
Though he denied having ties to TrueJewschool both in a Jewschool post and in a subsequent e-mail to the Forward, Cohen also wrote: “I don’t operate it, but I surely appreciate the healthy approach they have to keeping it true Jew, unlike JewSchool.com, which has a bunch of hate-fueled propaganda on their Web site attacking anybody that is not a fanatical Orthodox Jew.”
Meanwhile, Sieradski said the latest flap would be his last war of words with Cohen. He has vowed never to write about him again.
“Never ever?” a skeptical reporter asked.
“If I do, I’m playing right into his hands,” he said.