The world fell in love with Daveed Diggs when he appeared on the Broadway stage as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton. The Jewish world fell especially hard when it was discovered (and it didn’t take long — the spelling of his first name gives it all away) that Diggs is a fellow member of the tribe.
Diggs won a Tony and a Grammy for his Broadway performances and an Emmy nomination for “Hamilton the Film.” But before all that, Diggs was a free-spirited artist, rapper and nice Jewish boy from Oakland.
Let’s unpack his Jewish background:
His parents met at a club where his mom was the DJ.
David Daniele Diggs was born in Oakland, California. He’s the son of a Jewish American mother, Barbara, and African-American father, Dountes Diggs.
His mom and dad named him “Daveed” which is the Hebrew pronunciation of David.
David was a biblical king and the name means beloved in Hebrew.
“They spelled it with two Es because my dad liked the look of it,” he said in an interview.
He’s proudly Black and Jewish.
“My mom is a white Jewish lady and my dad is black,” he explained in an interview. “The cultures never seemed separate—I had a lot of mixed friends. When I was young, I identified with being Jewish, but I embraced my dad’s side too.”
He went to Hebrew school.
“I went to Hebrew school, but opted out of a bar mitzvah,” he said.
He wrote a Hanukkah song last year.
Last year, Diggs wrote “Puppy for Hanukkah” a klezmer-rap mashup with his rap group Clippings.
It served as powerful representation for Jews of color.
When Disney first approached him for the project, he was originally going to turn them down.
“My knee-jerk reaction was… absolutely not,” Diggs told NPR.
But then he realized the song, and its accompanying music video could have an important impact. Growing up Black and Jewish, he said he lacked a sense of representation within a mostly white Jewish community. This music video was a chance to change that norm and offer representation of Jewish diversity.
The video is cute. But more than that, it was moving for many viewers.
“What Diggs gave us was an image of Black joy paired with a genre-merging instant classic that showed us authentic representation without having to tell us that that’s what was happening,” wrote Jesi Taylor Cuz in an article for Alma.
“It’s just nice to feel seen without being tokenized, fetishized, or having the experiences of Black Jews written by white, non-Jews who happen to be in the writers room or showcased for the sake of representation alone.”
Originally Published Jul 21, 2021 12:03AM EDT