Identity crisis doesn't mean a thing to Vanessa Hidary, whose journey to her eclectically-gathered Jewish roots took her through the world of hip-hop and spoken word. A self-described "culture bandit," she does not want you to tell her that she doesn't look Jewish, because this Syrian-American Nuyorican-reppin' Jewess most certainly is Jewish. She'll even go to Harlem Def Poetry Jam to tell you personally. Mixing old-school Hebrew vibes with a multi-culti sensibility and street smarts, Vanessa's message is simple: be proud of who you are.
Native New Yorker Vanessa Hidary, AKA The Hebrew Mamita, grew up on Manhattan's culturally diverse Upper West Side, graduating from LaGuardia High School of the Arts and Hunter College. Her experiences as a Sephardic Jew with close friends from different ethnic and religious backgrounds inspired her to write "Culture Bandit," the nationally toured solo show that chronicles Vanessa's coming of age during the golden age of Hip-Hop and her dedication to fostering understanding and friendship between all people.
"Culture Bandit", was originally produced by LAByrinth Theatre Company (Artistic directors: Phillip Seymour Hoffman and John Ortiz). It has since played as part of The Roar Theatre Festival at Nuyorican Poets Café, as part of The Downtown Urban Theater Festival, The Los Angeles Women's Theater Festival, The Hip Hop Theatre Festival, The Revolutions Theatre Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico, The Philadelphia Fringe Festival, Makor Arts Center in the “Hip-hop without Borders” festival, and the Comedy Central Stage in Los Angeles.
She has aired three times on “Russell Simmon's Presents Def Poetry Jam" on HBO, and is featured in the short film, “The Tribe,” which was selected for the Sundance Film Festival, the Tribeca Film Festival, and the Jewish Motifs International Film Festival in Warsaw, Poland, where Vanessa attended as the film’s representative.
Vanessa was recently chosen as one of the 50 speakers to appear at the "2010 IdeaCity- Canada's Premiere Meeting of the Minds". She appeared at the 2009 Limmudfest in the UK, and in November 2010 performed at the opening reception for the Lion of Judah conference at the Jewish Federation's General Assembly convention in New Orleans.
Other performances include: Central Park's Summerstage, NBC's 9/11 tribute "Concert for America," B.A.M. Cafe, Princeton University, Cornell, Syracuse, NYU, University of Florida, SUNY Purchase, USC, and countless other schools around the nation. She was a Grand Slam Poetry Finalist at The Nuyorican Poets Cafe, her "poetry home," where you can almost always find her producing, hosting, and performing.
She has conducted poetry and racism workshops with Bnai' Brith Youth orginization and is the director/developer of "MONOLOGUES" - an evening of solo performances by 15 young adults exploring their Jewish identity, inspired by a 10-day trip through Israel, produced by Birthright Israel NEXT.
Vanessa received an M.F.A. in acting from Trinity Rep theatre Conservatory. She is a member of SAG and AFTRA. She lives in Manhattan, where she is working on her first collection of poems and stories titled "The Last Kaiser Roll in the Bodega."