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Before he's a man, bar mitzvah boy goes viral
Daniel Blumen of Atlanta offers a fresh take on the bar mitzvah save-the-date announcement.
February 21st, 2013
09:31 AM ET

Before he's a man, bar mitzvah boy goes viral

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) – According to Jewish tradition, a boy becomes a man at 13, when he's called before his community to read from the Torah and become a bar mitzvah, meaning “son of the commandments.”

In the case of Daniel Blumen, who will make this rite of passage in May, this homestretch of childhood has suddenly become a viral event.

Rather than send out simple save-the-date cards or e-mail announcements, Daniel busted out and did something different. A fan of rap music, this only child and “clever little guy,” as described by his father, made a music video – for which he wrote most of his own lyrics – playing off Jermaine Dupri's “Welcome to Atlanta," featuring Ludacris.

Welcome to Atlanta where the playas play,
Hope you can make my bar mitzvah day.
Thirteen years since I was born,
And the party won't stop till Sunday mornin'.

The video features Daniel plugging landmark sites across the city – Turner Field, the Olympic rings, the Georgia Aquarium – and includes a smattering of celebs. Ne-Yo holds up a sign in a photo: "To My Lil Rapper D Mazel Tov!" In another image, Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley sit at the TNT Halftime Report desk, where Daniel also appears.

The final product was intended for friends and family and went out two weeks ago. But on Tuesday, a staff writer at Tablet magazine, Adam Chandler, saw it on Facebook after a friend of a friend shared it. He wrote a quick piece for the online Jewish publication, and social media took over – landing Daniel in the spotlight and on national TV.

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“I've never done anything even closely related to this,” said Daniel, who explained that he and his mom were inspired by a save-the-date video that a kid from New York made a couple of years ago, playing off Jay-Z's “Empire State of Mind.” “It was really good, but we wanted to do something funnier that had to do with Atlanta.”

The reviews from friends and family have been great. And plenty of strangers are loving it, too, including Frank Ski, an Atlanta radio and TV personality.

Ski, who appeared in the original Jermaine Dupri and Ludacris video, was one of a handful of local celebs to make cameo appearances in Daniel's. He has a son in Daniel's school and a friend who practices law in the same firm as Daniel's parents. So when the friend approached him about the project, he couldn't resist. Daniel went to Frank Ski's Restaurant & Lounge, and after 15 minutes in the DJ booth together they had what they needed.

“It was pretty simple and painless,” Ski said. As for the final product: “Very creative,” he said. “Hilarious.”

Another fan is Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who also made an appearance after Daniel's mom sent a request to the mayor's office.

"Mayor Reed has an extremely busy schedule, but he has a soft spot for kids and this seemed like a fun, easy thing to do. ... It only took a few minutes," spokeswoman Sonji Jacobs wrote in an e-mail. "We did not know it would go viral. We think it is very cute."

Not everyone who's come across the video is pleased, however. There are plenty of oys and ughs, claims that this is an insult to a faith and a people, and other sweeping generalizations about what the video represents. One woman wrote on Facebook: "Gag. This would be cute if it weren't so excessive. I'm embarrassed on behalf of The Temple (the synagogue Daniel's family attends), my home city and southern Jewry."

The thing is, beyond the kid in New York who inspired the idea, Daniel is far from alone in doing this. Do a quick YouTube search, and there are oodles of less compelling save-the-date videos.

The criticisms are mind-blowing to Rabbi Peter Berg of The Temple, who agreed to a quick cameo himself. He said he knows countless synagogues that release playful videos, including raps, to ramp up High Holy Day attendance. And it's not as if this is Daniel's actual bar mitzvah, a ceremony the boy is taking very seriously.

“This is just a kid's save-the-date that he's sending to Aunt Sylvia,” said Berg. “He's a good kid. He's excited about his bar mitzvah, and I think it's a shame people are being critical.”

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Even the headline to the Tablet story made a little dig: “Bar Mitzvah Video Eclipses GDP of Small Nations.”

That, too, is laughable to those who were involved. Berg said no one was paid to be in the video. It was shot in a day (other than quick cameos) and edited by a recent college grad, 21-year-old Gabi Chennisi, with the help of her boyfriend. Chennisi, who freelances around Atlanta and does work for CNN sister network HLN, said she got no more than $2,000 for the job – one she couldn't have enjoyed more.

“I want people to look for the spirit in the video,” she said. “He was not taking himself too seriously. The family wanted to have a good time with it, and he had a blast.”

And for those who complain that Daniel's parents, Rick Blumen and Liz Price, have nothing better to do with their money?

“This cost much less than the printed invitations (to the bar mitzvah), which aren't lavish either,” Daniel's dad said. “We'll have a normal service and normal party afterward. We're not looking to top any lists or do anything spectacular.”

But the fact that Daniel was inspired enough to do this video is pretty spectacular, said Clark Howard, an Atlanta-based syndicated consumer expert who appears on radio and TV, including HLN.

Howard doesn't know Daniel's parents, but when they reached out to one of his producers and he heard about what Daniel was doing, he was in. Something about a boy being pumped for his bar mitzvah got to him.

“It can be a brutal path,” Howard said.

He should know. He didn't have his bar mitzvah until 11 years ago, when he was 46. He decided to do it when his oldest daughter was studying for – and complaining about – her coming-of-age ceremony.

“She said, 'Dad, why do I have to do this when you never did it?' I said, 'You're right,'” Howard remembered. “She thought I was going to say 'quit.' … I said, 'Why don't I do it, too.'”

For two years he studied. He'd take breaks from a book tour to return to Atlanta and have lessons with his rabbi. He had no idea how hard it would be. Come the big day, which included a joint service with his daughter, Howard choked.

“She nailed it,” he said. “I was completely pathetic.”

Daniel, said those who know him, is bound to shine. He's working hard, according to his rabbi. He's conscientious and getting straight As, said his dad. The boy was racing off to Hebrew lessons, which he has twice a week, when CNN reached him Wednesday evening.

Fred Assaf, the head of Daniel's school, Pace Academy, and also a video cameo star, said there's a lesson in all of this – especially for those who grumble about “kids these days.”

“The world changes,” he said. “We're trying to get kids to take leadership positions and create a new world and not be stuck in the past. We encourage critical thinking and creativity. If these young kids can't be smarter than us, we're in trouble.”

If a child is having fun and is excited about an important milestone in his life, that's great news, he said.

“And a kid who's put himself out there regarding his faith, good for him,” Assaf said. “Who can complain?”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Culture wars • Faith Now • Georgia • Internet • Judaism • Media

soundoff (285 Responses)
  1. Sammy Miscovich

    My dream retirement would be living in Udaipur, India! I have been on the city and really like the people today and Indian culture. I'd be thrilled to be able to see this film which takes place in the ideal place in the earth! :)

    December 4, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
  2. Science

    Free speech helps educate the masses

    Gravity is not up for debate !

    BY the way ...................Splat goes a fairy in the sky !...............bye bye tinker bell !

    Einstein's Gravity Theory Passes Toughest Test Yet

    Apr. 25, 2013 — A strange stellar pair nearly 7,000 light-years from Earth has provided physicists with a unique cosmic laboratory for studying the nature of gravity. The extremely strong gravity of a massive neutron star in orbit with a companion white dwarf star puts competing theories of gravity to a test more stringent than any available before

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130425142250.htm

    Hey James Madison................religion has none it looks like.............with the comments on this blog.

    The Big question is ETHICS ! does religion have any ?

    The Ethics of Resurrecting Extinct Species

    Apr. 8, 2013 — At some point, scientists may be able to bring back extinct animals, and perhaps early humans, raising questions of ethics and environmental disruption.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130408165955.htm

    April 30, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |

    May 1, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |

    Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418104324.htm

    And NO ANGELS the pope KICKED them OFF the TEAM last year !

    From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life

    http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIE2aOriginoflife.shtml

    the wrong path is Adam and Eve !

    Human Y Chromosome Much Older Than Previously Thought

    Mar. 4, 2013 — The discovery and analysis of an extremely rare African American Y chromosome pushes back the time of the most recent common ancestor for the Y chromosome lineage tree to 338,000 years ago. This time predates the age of the oldest known anatomically modern human fossils.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130305145821.htm

    No god(s) needed or required to graduate from public schools in the US

    Remember : Adam had to POKE himself hard with his OWN BONE to create Eve.

    No god(s) needed................... Old. DNA works..................also catches crooks !

    Ancient DNA Reveals Europe's Dynamic Genetic History

    Apr. 23, 2013 — Ancient DNA recovered from a series of skeletons in central Germany up to 7,500 years old has been used to reconstruct the first detailed genetic history of modern Europe.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130423134037.htm

    Ca-nabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®) – National Cancer Insti-tute

    http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cannabis/.../page4

    Mar 21, 2013 – [1,2] These plant-derived compounds may be referred to as phytocannabinoids. ... have a protective effect against the development of certain types of tumors. ... In lung cancer cell lines, CBD upregulated ICAM-1, leading to ...

    Good stuff !

    May 3, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • Science

      Update :

      See for yourself below.................The fairy in the sky did NOT create us !!!

      From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life

      http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIE2aOriginoflife.shtml

      Monkey Math: Baboons Show Brain's Ability to Understand Numbers ..........E = mc2..............(U-Pb) numbers do not lie !

      May 3, 2013 — Opposing thumbs, expressive faces, complex social systems: it's hard to miss the similarities between apes and humans. Now a new study with a troop of zoo baboons and lots of peanuts shows that a less obvious trait – the ability to understand numbers – also is shared by humans and their primate cousins.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130503132719.htm

      OR.........take a ride on a DINO.

      Fossil records are better to read than the nasty bible..................no god(s) required !

      Oldest? New 'Bone-Head' Dinosaur Hints at Higher Diversity of Small Dinosaurs

      May 7, 2013 — Scientists have named a new species of bone-headed dinosaur (pachycephalosaur) from Alberta, Canada. Acrotholus audeti (Ack-RHO-tho-LUS) was identified from both recently discovered and historically collected fossils. Approximately six feet long and weighing about 40 kilograms in life, the newly identified plant-eating dinosaur represents the oldest bone-headed dinosaur in North America, and possibly the world.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130507124800.htm

      The Science Guy takes on creationism

      CNN|Added on November 24, 2012

      http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2012/11/24/intv-nye-creationism.cnn

      May 8, 2013 at 9:18 am |
  3. שלום דניאל

    אנו מתפללים כי אתה יודע משיח.
    :)

    April 7, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • God loves you!

      April 7, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • Steve

      Once again, so-called "Christian Rap" is C-R-A-P.

      April 29, 2013 at 8:22 am |
  4. John

    This is DEFINATE PROOF THAT THE JEWS CONTROL THE MEDIA. This is a national story... a Jewish kid sucks so bad at rapping that a black or white kid could fart and it would be a better "busted ryme?" This kid sucks so bad that the Jews would have to control the media for him to be a story! Why this ryme is busted it can't be trusted. Shabbat Shalom–Oy Oy Oy.

    March 18, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
    • BloggingDAWEB

      @John

      Oi, Oi Skin...d
      get your HEAD CUT

      March 19, 2013 at 12:54 am |
  5. BloggingDAWEB

    say
    no
    to
    Whites
    in
    Hip HOP

    March 18, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
    • saying something

      How can we ever have any hope in this world if people keep thinking race is anything other than a few minor biological variations in appearance? Seriously, if you don't believe that call ask a nurse.

      April 28, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
  6. BloggingDAWEB

    THis
    is
    Black
    Music

    Leave it alone

    He should be singing Jewish songs , not our sh...it

    March 18, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
  7. DontBeAfraid

    if my 13 year-old came home and started acting like "fitty-cent",
    I'd dump him off in the ghetto and let him fend for himself....

    March 18, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • BloggingDAWEB

      you re
      allowed
      to enter our Ghettos
      stay in the WHITE PICKET FENCES area

      coming where we are is not recommended , for anyone that s not like us , you wanted to se gre ga..te
      YOU GOT IT

      March 18, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
  8. Wonderful

    Daniel, I loved your Rap may G_d continue to bless you. You put a smile on my face

    March 18, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • BloggingDAWEB

      Yeah
      you love his Rap, because its a rich jewish kid
      but
      you hate our black race and proud to say it loud over the internet

      this kid should be doing his sh...t in jewish culture , not ours , this is black stuff
      OUR STUFF

      March 18, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
  9. Dating

    That is really interesting, You are an overly professional blogger. I have joined your feed and look ahead to in the hunt for extra of your great post. Also, I have shared your website in my social networks!

    March 12, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
  10. Stephen

    Well, there are many nice posts here. Daniel, I hope you had a wonderful Bar Mitzvah. You keep reading Tanach. You will be so glad you did. Also you should try reading the New Testament or New Covenant. Decide for yourself if it, like Tanach, is from G-d. Shalom

    March 12, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
  11. Marsh

    I think this video is cute. And @ End Religion, whether the scriptures are true or not, we should let the boy decide for himself what he believes. If he really believes in Judaism, and he's happy in it, good for him. Personally, I don't have anything against any religious group, or any society, just individuals.

    March 12, 2013 at 11:01 am |
  12. Jack Tors

    Oy Vey.

    March 11, 2013 at 8:22 am |
  13. Facts

    Of course the comments and likes are disabled on Youtube.... This is disgusting. lol

    March 10, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
  14. Robert

    Mazel Tov Daniel. If you would like to explore the roots of real Jewish music, which has a deep and mysterious history, take a look at my friend Cantor Richard Kaplan's website: http://www.kaplanmusic.com/ You will be happy to know that your "rap" is part of a five-thousand year tradition in Jewish music of incorporating local/contemporary styles and idioms. What better way to celebrate the coming of manhood than to make a "joyful noise". Stay gold, ponyboy.

    March 9, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  15. Read your Bible,pray everyday
    March 9, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • Amen

      :)

      March 9, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • Civility Police

      Post by End.. Is uncivil

      March 9, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • Cool

      Read this dialy to find truth

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/02/09/my-take-a-word-to-christians-be-nice/

      March 10, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  16. Jacob

    It is wonderful and very important to have children read the Scriptures. For Daniel, this is a great opportunity to grow in knowledge and wisdom.

    March 8, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • End Religion

      It is child abuse to have children read scripture as anything other than a look into our fictional historically religious past, like studying a dead language.

      March 9, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • Azazel

      thats right endy, thats what i want you to tell people. i cant wait until you and your family and followers get down here .
      hahahaha. You are so valuable to us, that we want you to be happy and live in peace. go on then. keep going the way you are.

      March 18, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
  17. akmed

    i no like jew

    March 7, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
  18. giovanni

    yeah, study the torrah, another fairy tale BS book

    March 7, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
  19. giovanni

    jews are so damnned annoying

    March 7, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.