I’m straight, but I think this week’s Poet with Chutzpah Vanessa Hidary (aka “the Hebrew Mamita”) is one of the most gorgeous women I’ve ever seen. Perhaps that’s why it’s such a jolt when this actress, playwright and poet starts pounding the air with her rhyme, rhythm and words, hip-hop styling with a Jewish, hard-edged beat.
Her poems are not just slammin’, they’re empowering, and they’re Jewish at that. Unabashedly, boldly, fabulously Jewish.
When I asked her, Do you consider yourself a Poet with Chutzpah? Why or why not? Her answer was clear. A hells yes. She answered:
Yes, Because I take risks and talk outside the box. Not everyone might like what i have to say, but they can’t say I’m not bold!
I first heard of Vanessa while watching the Jewish film “The Tribe” at a UJFC YL event at Temple of Aaron. The movie was so-so but the clip from Vanessa’s poem “Hebrew Mamita” was powerful. I had to watch the whole clip on youtube. I emailed Vanessa to ask about her poem “Hebrew Mamita.” Hebrew Mamita is a stunning piece. Did anything specifically inspire you to write it? “Thank you,” she said, with a smiley, and continued.
The Hebrew Mamita piece was a piece forming in my head and heart for a number of years. I knew I wanted to write a piece about the stereotypes people have about different cultures, from my point of view, but could not find the right way to form the words. Then one day I sat down and it all came pouring out.
Watch Vanessa’s “Hebrew Mamita” here.
Vanessa grew up in Manhattan and her experiences as a Sephardic Jew with close friends from different ethnic and religious backgrounds inspired her to write her touring solo show “Culture Bandit.” She has aired twice on the Peabody Award winning series Russell Simmon’s Presents Def Poetry” on HBO. She has been featured in, among others, Time Out New York, The Forward, The Los Angeles Times. She is also a member of the touring theater troupe “Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad.”
But her poetry transcends her Jewish, female, and Latina identities. It is all of those and none of those and a bit of each. I asked Vanessa, How does your Jewish identity play out in your writing? She said:
I cant separate myself from being a Jewish woman in any of my work. Its who I am. I also feel a need to represent the voice of the urban Jewish girl who grew up in NYC. It felt like that voice was missing, and needed.
Many Jewish women will recognize their lives, their hearts, in her words, yes, but so will non-Jewish women who also happen to be passionate, kick-ass, powerful females. Check out this next piece and see if you see a bit of yourself (or the women in your life) in Vanessa’s words.
Watch Vanessa in “PhD in Him”
If you haven’t checked the other kick-ass Jewish poets we’ve profiled this month, read and watch them now — Yael Miriam, Matthue Roth and Jake Marmer.
(Photo Credit: T’rah Holliday Veal)