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Joshua Nelson is an American gospel singer and Hebrew teacher.
Nelson is Black and Jewish (he has called himself "the KKK's worst nightmare"). He became fascinated with music when he was 8, living in Brooklyn. His fascination lasted after he graduated from Newark's Performing Arts High School. He was the school's official soloist for the 4 years he studied there. He went on to do a 2-year college and kibbutz program in Israel studying at the Hebrew Union College as well as the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Nelson is both a Jewish Gospel singer in the tradition of Mahalia Jackson, and a Hebrew teacher full-time in the Hebrew school at Sharey-Tefilo-Israel, a Reform synagogue in South Orange, NJ, when he is not on the road. He also serves as director of music at Hopewell Baptist Church in Newark, NJ, which is housed in a former synagogue (the former B’nai Jeshurun.
Nelson has performed with musical legends including Wynton Marsalis and Aretha Franklin and Stephanie Mills and Billy Preston, as well as gospel singers Albertina Walker, the Barret Sisters, Hezekiah Walker, Kirk Franklin, Dottie Peoples, Dorothy Norwood, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Reverend Timothy Wright, and Bobby Jones & New Life. Nelson also performs frequently with the Jewish Klezmer band The Klezmatics, and performed with the late jazz greats Cab Calloway and Dizzy Gillespie.
A film was made about Nelson entitled Keep on Walking: Joshua Nelson: The Jewish Gospel Singer (2000). It was voted Best Documentary in the Northampton Film Festival, and won the Best Film Award (the Paul Robeson Award) at the Newark Black Film Festival.
The film aired on PBS and affiliate networks nationally in 2003 and 2004. Internationally it aired on the national networks of Sweden, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Japan, Israel, and Italy in 2003 and 2004.
Nelson's TV credits include “A+ for Kids” on WWOR-TV; “SingSation,” a Gospel program taped in Chicago and broadcast nationally on CBS-TV (1995–97, 2005); and Black Entertainment Television's The Bobby Jones Gospel Hour (1995–2003). Nelson also appeared on the The Oprah Winfrey Show, which aired October 2004 and December 2004. Alongside Jamie Foxx, Mr. Nelson was named by Oprah as “The Next Big Thing.”