Adam Yauch, rapper in the pioneering hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, has died at the age of 48 from cancer. Yauch had been sick since 2009, after the discovery of a tumor in his salivary gland.
All over the internet, music fans are reposting articles about his tragic illness and death, as well as the incredible contribution he made to music and human rights, especially the cause of the Tibetan people.
And that’s where we hit a bump in the road: do we say Mourner’s Kaddish tonight for Adam, who left Judaism for Buddhism?
Some people believe “once a Jew, always a Jew” (see the Chabad picture above as evidence). But in the case of Yauch, is that really true? Yauch was definitely a Buddhist…and not in a meditate-then-drink-a-beer kind of way. He took it very seriously and frankly, in many circles, is know more for founding the Milarepa Fund than License To Ill.
Here at PunkTorah, we make a point of creating mourner’s kaddish YouTube videos when prominent Jewish people die. But in Yauch’s case, would that have been the right thing to do? Yauch was a Buddhist and we want to respect the fact that this is the spiritual path he took. We have no judgements of that. Would we then be judged if we made a YouTube video with the kaddish overlaying a simple hip hop beat? Would this be us Bible bashing Yauch’s choice to convert? We didn’t want to go there…so we wrote this article instead.
Either way, Yauch was an incredible musician, philanthropist and activist, and we send our condolences to his family. May his memory be a blessing.