Blood beatBlood beat

Orthodox girls rap on genetic testing in viral video

While critical of widespread poverty in ultra-Orthodox community, unauthorized song encourages pre-marriage screening

Renee Ghert-Zand is the health reporter and a feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Orthodox Jewish girls sing rap song about Dor Yeshorim, a genetic screening and matching organization. (YouTube)
Orthodox Jewish girls sing rap song about Dor Yeshorim, a genetic screening and matching organization. (YouTube)

Genetic diseases are no laughing matter, but it’s hard not to crack a smile as you watch a couple of Orthodox Jewish school girls rap about an organization that screens for them.

In a video posted anonymously late last week, two unidentified teenage girls sing the praises of Dor Yeshorim, a Brooklyn-based confidential matching service based on the genetic compatibility of potential couples.

Dor Yeshorim’s clients, mainly Orthodox Jews, submit to a blood test which checks whether someone is a carrier of any genetic diseases. The test results of potential couples are reviewed, and if both the man and the woman are carriers for the same disease(s), then they are advised not to marry for fear of producing affected offspring. The tested individuals are not told specifically which diseases they are carriers for so as not to shame them, or damage their chances of marrying someone else (with whom they are genetically compatible).

What makes the video so compelling is the fact that these girls, probably Bais Yaakov students based on their dress, are actually pretty good at rapping and beatboxing. They can also bust some moves. It goes to show you that you can’t assume that young women wearing long, dark skirts and educated in a sheltered environment don’t know what’s going on in popular mainstream culture.

The video, which has racked up so far almost 30,000 views, appears to have been filmed on a camera phone, possibly surreptitiously. It is unclear if the girls knew their performance in front of their school lockers would be uploaded. (The Forward reported that the girls claimed that the video was uploaded to YouTube without their permission.)

The lyrics to the rap (posted to Genius) could be understood as both praising and sending up family life in Orthodox Jewish communities. On one hand, the girls seem to genuinely praise Dor Yeshorim, and thank it for enabling them to find a match and have many healthy offspring that they can enjoy through to old age. The song describes the various stages of life from dating through to death. Here’s the final verse:

Now I’m lying in bed
Hooked up to IVs
Wow, 120 did pass in a breeze
Lived a full full life dedicated to Hashem
Thanks Dor Yeshorim — this is the end

However, the middle verses describing the life of young parents in the Orthodox community can be understood as being less than complimentary, if not sarcastically critical.

The girls talk of the expensive jewelry expected by young Orthodox brides, and they dream ahead to having 7 children, including girls with “great personality and looks. We’ll be getting resumes [of potential husbands] by the books.”

But then they sing, “Hold up (Uh). Wait. Rewind,” and describe the hard life of young couples raising large families without financial resources (because the husbands continue to study Torah instead of going to work).

Let’s go back to kollel when we living on dimes
Got a two bedroom ‘partment for us and three kids
The kitchen’s so spacious, two people almost fit

And then all of our money on tuition rent and food
That a-hundred-a-week is really pulling us through

Dor Yeshorim, an organization that doesn’t generally speak with reporters, is not surprisingly far from thrilled about the video. The theory that any publicity is good publicity does not apply.

“We are very disturbed about the whole video,” Chaim Brown, marketing director for Dor Yeshorim told the Forward.

Brown confirmed that Dor Yeshorim had nothing to do with the video.

“It is below our dignity as an organization to promote such a thing,” he said.

Officially sanctioned or not, these types of videos have a life of their own. Within hours, a “Dor Yeshorim Rap Challenge” popped up online and now other Bais Yaakov girls and yeshiva boys are posting their own Dor Yeshorim videos. Some lightheartedly parody the original, but others are critical responses in which young men admonish the the original video for being immoral. The critiques have to do either with women singing in public (a religious prohibition among Orthodox Jews), or with posting a video without permission and hurting people’s reputations.

For those seriously interested in what Dor Yeshorim does, there’s this video, which in contrast to the girls’ rap video, has had only 587 views in more than a year:

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