Viral Jewish Rapper Y. Shofario: From New Orleans’ Stages to Frum Fatherhood

Viral Jewish Rapper Y. Shofario: From New Orleans’ Stages to Frum Fatherhood

I met Yosef Packer (AKA Y. Shofario) a few years back because he’s my neighbor and the father of my son’s best friend. When we first met I discovered that Yosef and I have a lot in common. We both grew up in Baltimore. We’re both baalei teshuva. And (this was a real shocker for me) both of us attended similar non-Jewish prep schools. That means our schools’ teams play soccer against one another in Baltimore and now our sons play soccer against each other, tsitsiot (and occasionally kippot) flying behind them in the Holy City.

But last week I found something else out about Yosef that shocked me again. Turns out that in addition to being the amazing father of a large, beautiful family, Yosef’s a professional musician whose popular music videos combining rap, funk, and (Jewish) soul have drawn tens of thousands of views (including a bunch of my own!)

I wanted to learn more about Yosef/Y. Shofario’s religious and musical journey from Baltimore to Jerusalem via the music scene of New Orleans…and (of course) share his remarkable story with you!

Yosef grew up as one of 2 siblings in a Conservative Jewish family. At the age of 10, a tragedy struck his small family, turning Yosef’s world upside down.

Every day, his wonderful, devoted mom would pick him up from school in her station wagon and give him a Granny-Smith apple for the drive home. But one day, mom didn’t show up. It turned out that earlier that day, while jogging, Yosef’s mother had suffered a heart attack. No goodbyes. It is an understatement to say that that day, for Yosef and his grieving family, the world lost its glow.

In high school, Yosef started to play the saxophone. And while attending undergraduate and law school in New Orleans, he played sax and rapped in an original funk band. The group performed at venues like the House of Blues, Tipitinas, and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. However, when Yosef realized that studying law required his full attention, with a heavy heart his music career came to a sudden halt.

After law school, Yosef litigated international business disputes at a branch of one of the world’s largest law firms. At one point, a coworker who was a convert to Judaism initiated Lunch and Learns taught by various Orthodox rabbis in the firm’s boardroom.

“There was a lot of siata d’Shamaya (help from Heaven) hooking me up with those rabbis who would introduce me to a new way of understanding and experiencing Judaism,” Yosef explains.

At the lunch and learn, Yosef met Chabad emissary Rabbi Yoel Caroline and became a fixture at the Caroline’s Shabbat meals and an unofficial member of the family. Inspired to explore his roots, at the age of twenty-eight, he flew to Israel for what was supposed to be a two-year sabbatical.

But towards the end of his first year in Israel, during which Yosef participated in a Hebrew-immersion program in Arad, he heard about Jerusalem yeshiva Machon Meir. Yosef was interested in checking out a yeshiva before returning to the law firm in the States. And that was how his two-year trip was extended indefinitely. At Machon Meir, Yosef understood that Israel was his home.

In his second-year at Machon Meir, a learning partner introduced Yosef to his soulmate, Efrat. “A little more of that help from Heaven,” Yosef adds with a smile.

His wife-to-be was an Israeli lawyer from an observant family that made aliya from Morocco and Yemen in the 1950’s.

They married in Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue three months later. Yosef and Efrat’s youngest child is a sweet six-month baby girl and their oldest is a few months away from her bat mitzvah, “with” as Yosef puts it ,”a whole lot of adrenaline in between,” referring to a string of sons sandwiched between their two daughters.

But in addition to becoming a husband and hands-on father, something else happened along the way. Yosef started playing music again. With local producer, arranger, and keyboard player David Adda he recorded a 12-song album entitled “Free Neshama.” And then, at Machon Meir, Yosef met a fellow student who was also a video director and producer: Eliran Cohen, of ChuchiCreative. Together they created a successful series of music videos of singles from the forthcoming album. A music video dedicated to his mother will be released soon.

“I am writing songs that I feel and groove to,” Packer explains with visible excitement. “I hope my music inspires others to take a step further in discovering their neshama-soul potential and realizing it. Life can be so material and spin so fast. We need to help each other slow it down and hear our own song.”

You can follow Y. Shofario at:#YShofario








  1. I really like the first one, not keen on the second.

  2. Very talented! I like them both

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