Hip-hop in the Holy Land

Solidarity over segregation – an all female street-dance competition provides an outlet for girls with a passion for the sport.

In a Ra'anana high school gym this week, 400 girls from 27 dance “crews” – groups with sassy names like Hodipop, Lady Boom and G7 Crew – performed hip-hop routines before a panel of judges for a prize of some serious money. What sets the “Battle of the Crews” apart from several other hip-hop competitions in Israel is that it’s strictly female-only, providing an outlet for religious girls to strut their stuff within the boundaries of modesty. Yet not all the participants consider themselves religious; some simply feel uncomfortable competing in the presence of male audience members and judges, while others prefer not to compete on Shabbat. A few of the dancers were not even Jewish.

The organizer of Battle of the Crews was 27-year-old Raquella Siegel Raiz of Efrat, who began a competition of the same name in Bergen County, New Jersey, when she was in high school. In fact, Battle of the Crews still takes place annually at the JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly. When she met Israeli hip-hop teacher Shaked Avisar three summers ago at a New York dance class, she knew she’d found her partner for launching a similar concept in Israel.

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