When Daniel Silverstein was growing up in London, he wrote poetry. He also sang.
He eventually combined those skills in his unique style of rap and hip-hop poetry. “My rebbe,” he said, “was Bob Dylan.”
A member of a “proudly Jewish” but not ritually observant family, he turned to a Modern Orthodox lifestyle as a teen, dropped out for five years, then returned.
After years of performing in a band that had a message of interfaith tolerance, and three years studying in Israeli yeshivot, he decided on a career that would combine his apparently disparate interests — he’ll be ordained this month by Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in Riverdale, Rabbi Avi Weiss’ Open Orthodox institution. Despite the workload, Silverstein has continued to perform, albeit less regularly, in recent years.
This summer he takes a post as Hillel rabbi at Stanford University, where he will be able to resume use of his “spoken word artist”-MC background.
Founder of London’s Moishe House, Silverstein is also a veteran of work that promotes better relations between Jews and Muslims, and co-founded Lines of Faith, "a Muslim-Jewish hip hop and poetry collective,” to further his constant goal: shattering stereotypes.
His brand of improv poetry and the rabbinate complement each other, he said. His theological training colors his music, and his performance skills help him on the bima.
If, he said, “you sound like you are reading from a script, people can tell.”
Spent time at Cambridge … Two years after earning a B.A. in social and political sciences at the University of Cambridge Silverstein returned to campus as director of the Hillel Culanu Center for Jewish Life.
… and in El Salvador: Three years ago he went to El Salvador with American Jewish World Service as part of a delegation of rabbinical students. The group spent the mornings digging irrigation ditches on small farms and the afternoons studying the country’s culture.