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Spotlight on Nir Hay Goldberg, writer of ‘The Jewish Mafia’

Goldberg flashes his Star-of-David arm tattoo, modeled after a necklace given by his grandmother.

Nir Hay Goldberg lived a comfortable life as an artist in his native Israel. But, craving something different, he left all he knew to begin a journey on unfamiliar American shores.

Goldberg was born in 1990 to a Morrocan mother and Argentinian father in Rehovot, Israel.  At the age of 13, he discovered a passion for breakdance, followed by other forms of artistic expression, including but not limited to, photography, guitar, writing, editing and rapping.

After his release from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) at 22, Goldberg sought to take his hobbies to a professional level, trying anything and everything to achieve his goals.

“I have no limits. I’ll do anything,” he proclaimed.

At one attempt of recognition, Goldberg went on a reality show called “Ma Sheh Corre BaEilat” (What Happens in Eilat). Although people indeed recognized Goldberg from the show, it was not the type of recognition he intended.

“There is nothing beneath it,” he said. “They recognize me because I’m on TV. Not because of my art. It’s nothing.”

Soon accepting that a career in dance would only last him through his youth, Goldberg chose to pursue the one medium that came as a challenge to him—film.  With Google and Youtube as his teachers, he locked himself in his room for 18 hours a day, studying all aspects of cinema. This went on for about five years, and he even put his love of dance on hold for a year to fully immerse himself in his study.

Goldberg breakdancing.

Goldberg moved to Tel Aviv and established himself as a director and film editor. He paid the bills by teaching break dancing lessons to kids, took on various creative projects and lived a life free of concerns. But something was missing.

“Nothing in Israel was inspiring to me,” he said. “I need change, I need challenges, I need stuff to stimulate me all the time.” 

Seeking a wide platform for his artistic vision, Goldberg found inspiration in American culture, particularly Los Angeles culture, and its embrace of the weird and taboo. With his limited English, he moved to LA in 2017 with a tourist visa and $200 in his pocket.

However, Goldberg’s move to the Land of Opportunity was not immediately fruitful. With survival as his primary concern, Goldberg put creative endeavors to the side and started working as a waiter at a restaurant. After a few months, he switched to working 18 hours a day at a clothing store, but still made barely enough to support himself. He even experienced homelessness for a few months, living on the streets.

“Almost two years I didn’t do nothing artistically,” he recalled with dismay. He called them “the most horrible years of [his] life,” but they were also “super amazing, because [he] learned so much about everything, about [himself], too.”

After two years of artistic stagnation, Goldberg woke up one morning and decided it was time to do what he came to this country to do. He quit his job and started hustling to get gigs in film and editing, going out into the streets and doing everything he could to get his name out.

Since then, things have been looking up. “I changed my mind, so I changed my life,” he stated.

This was also around the time when Goldberg experienced a spiritual awakening. For the first time, living in a foreign country opened Goldberg’s eyes to what set him apart from Americans, and his Jewish and Israeli identity thus became more deeply ingrained.  He began to increase his religious observance, keeping strict kosher, wrapping tefillin every morning and wearing his signature tzit-tzit.

Now, Goldberg devotes his time to his business, Ensoff. Goldberg’s current work spans a wide range of projects, from wedding photography, to music videos, to fashion shoots.

Goldberg directing a production.

Then, of course, is his current project, The Jewish Mafia, a full-length film Goldberg wrote and aims to produce once he gets the funding. The Jewish Mafia is based on the true story of Jews during the late 1800’s who fled to New York after persecution in Europe.

Refusing to live in fear like the previous generation, the children of these immigrants formed a violent gang, much like those of the Italian and Irish mafias, in order to protect their Jewish elders from further persecution. The film takes on taboo themes by humanizing the same characters that go out and commit murderous acts.

“I want to mess with their emotions a little bit, so they can relate to both of them,” Goldberg said regarding his desired perception from his audience.

The film also relates a strong female role, as the female members of the Jewish Mafia serve as the backbone of the group. According to Goldberg, “the woman is always deciding on everything.”

Though Goldberg is proud of his finished script, working in the entertainment industry during a global pandemic has proven nothing short of challenging. During the first few months of COVID-19, the industry shut down completely, and Goldberg was forced to direct virtually on some projects.

When asked if this period was ever depressing for him, Goldberg quipped, “I’m always depressed, I’m an artist.”  He followed that with, “If I wasn’t depressed, I couldn’t create.”

Despite the setbacks of the past year, Goldberg finds creative ways to stay inspired. Last year, he started training for a marathon, and succeeded in running all 23 miles on his own.

“It was amazing, because it was the pursuit of running a marathon that gave me more energy in my work,” he said.

Goldberg’s future source of inspiration, however, seems rather unconventional. He plans to ask his friend, a shooting instructor he has known since childhood, to shoot a gun at him just close enough for the bullet to graze his body without hurting him.

“As much as I’m crazy, I’m also normal,” he insisted.

While Goldberg’s goal of bringing his films to life has not yet been realized, he still believes he has succeeded in building himself “from nothing to something,” attributing this success to the One Above.

“He gave me an approval that I can do everything I want,” Goldberg said. And to him, it is the only approval that truly matters.

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