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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 • Georgia • Internet • Judaism • Media

soundoff (285 Responses)
  1. DZA

    Epic awesome, Daniel! From a tribe member to another, that's a pretty funny thing!

    February 21, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
  2. What?

    This is hilarious! What? What do these comments have to do with the article? Whats a snake handler?

    February 21, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  3. I Can Make You a Man

    Dr. Frank-N-Furter: A weakling weighing ninety-eight pounds
    Will get sand in his face
    When kicked to the ground
    And soon in the gym
    With a determined chin
    The sweat from his pores
    As he works for his cause
    Will make him glisten
    And gleam, and with massage
    And just a little bit of steam
    He'll be pink and quite clean
    He'll be a strong man
    Oh, honey!

    Chorus: But the wrong man

    Dr. Frank-N-Furter: He'll eat nutritious, high protein
    And swallow raw eggs
    Try to build up his shoulders
    His chest, arms, and legs
    Such an effort
    If he only knew of my plan
    In just seven days

    Chorus: I can make you a man

    Dr. Frank-N-Furter: He'll do press-ups and chin-ups
    Do the snatch, clean, and jerk
    He thinks dynamic tension
    Must be hard work
    Such strenuous living
    I just don't understand
    When in just seven days
    Oh, baby
    I can make you a man

    February 21, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
  4. GunnerGA

    Mazel Tov to the Bar Mitzvah boy and his family. The video was a creative idea and hopefully will get more of his friends to come to the service and not just to the party. Just don't grow up too fast!

    February 21, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  5. Big B

    I'm glad he chose to be a rapper. All we need in this world is more rap.

    February 21, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • Ch1108

      Don't hate! If rap isn't for you, it's not for you!

      February 21, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Joe

      What the world really needs is another arm chair quarter back filling the internet with their hate. Bravo, well played.

      February 21, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
  6. George Morenstein

    Will there be some Dreidel action and who's booking it?

    Mazel Tov you little pisher, lol.

    February 21, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  7. Chuckles

    If this is anything like when I had my Bar Mitzvah, this kid will feel the shame of 1000 public shamings in only 6-7 years time.

    I recently had to endure rewatching my bar mitzvah tape with my family over the holidays and it was horrible. This kid might have a little limelight now but boy will he regret it.

    February 21, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Akira

      I regret every home movie my parents filmed of me. Thank goodness they've disintegrated, lol.

      February 21, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @Akira

      Lucky, my family is really into converting all the home movies, just to make sure we can watch them on all the different media types. Such "fun" memories should be enjoyed for future generations right?

      February 21, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • SilentBoy741

      My condolences, Akira. It's always sad when one's parents disintegrate.

      February 21, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  8. Jeff B.

    SirToYe
    You're really a disgusting human being, you know that ?

    February 21, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
  9. kristinakaye

    I'm a Roman Catholic, as if that should matter, and I loved this! Watched it twice before I moved on to other things.

    February 21, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • The Flamingo Kid

      "I'm a Roman Catholic" And you admit to this?

      February 21, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  10. toydrum

    I have to laugh about the lady that complained the video was excessive - of cource it was excessive! The kid is going on 13. Kids that age don't do subtle.

    Congratulations, on your big day, Daniel, and always keep in mind that this is not the end goal, but the beginning of a whole new journey of exploration and learning. Wherever your journey takes you, good luck!

    February 21, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
  11. Brandt Ziegler

    Two thumbs up from me – a goyim / half-breed. :) Have a great Bar Mitzvah! Two thumbs up Daniel Blumen. Just realize you ARE gangsta though and next video (because there will be a next one) just yell it in their faces and include more expression. Your boyz will help you with that though. Express yourself bro.

    February 21, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  12. Thenextstep

    THis is pathetic..............Watch for a Stupid-Ass reality show near you..........

    February 21, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • ELOB

      You are pathetic

      February 21, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Ch1108

      Ahhh, how sweet! You're about to get your own show!

      February 21, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • sj1

      Hey Westboro, what is it that you are doing with your life that makes you so great as to be able to cast judgement on other people, specifically a child? There probably isn't much reason this should be in the news but at least its a positive story. Why don't you tone it down a notch or three.

      February 21, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • Joe

      Everyone loves a critic....wait....nope

      February 21, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
  13. ME II

    dis boyo is OG! (Original Gornisht)

    February 21, 2013 at 11:49 am |
  14. Reasonably

    LMAO @ jewish gansta punk in ludicrous sideways hat a jersey shore chains.

    Takes more than that to be a man little boyo.

    February 21, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  15. HotAirAce

    Is this the ancient ritual that involves mutilating the boy's penis?

    February 21, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • ME II

      That would be the Bris, I believe.

      February 21, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • Leroy

      you are a moron. they need to mutilate your brain – if they can find it!

      February 21, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Akira

      Why is this a moronic question? Those who do not follow the Jewish faith wouldn't know. And what else would you CALL circumcision? Isn't it literally what he described it as? My goodness.

      February 21, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Mutilation Definition: To render a thing imperfect by cutting off or destroying a part.

      Why is it neccesary for believers to render their god's creation imperfect?

      February 21, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  16. Richard Cranium

    Who ordered the spam?

    February 21, 2013 at 11:34 am |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    February 21, 2013 at 10:59 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      February 21, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • Really?

      "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things"

      This is inaccurate wouldn't you agree? Especially when the data shows that atheists tend to have happier and healthier marriages than conservative Christians.

      February 21, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • as always

      atheist is a liar

      February 21, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  18. Meir Weiss

    Reblogged this on Meir Weiss' Blog.

    February 21, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  19. meifumado

    So glad my kid has taste and thinks rap is moronic.

    February 21, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • LanSon

      So glad your kid is better than everyone else! You Rock! What a stellar parent you are! Congratulations! Keep it up!!! Your the BEST!! OMG–you and your kid are just AWESOME!! *Sigh*–I really can't get over how great you two are...I'm gonna go and think about your and your wonderful kid ALL day! :)

      February 21, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Joe

      Too bad they have a critical a hole of a parent to live with. I'm sure living with someone who condemns a 13 year old due to his tastes in music, your kid will grow up to be just fantastic. Or a complete jerk just like his parents.

      February 21, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
    • doobzz

      :roll:

      September 11, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
  20. Bob

    Congrats!

    February 21, 2013 at 9:33 am |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.