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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. Moses

    How goy!

    February 21, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
  2. bribarian

    I think they better take this down before he turns into the next Rebecca Black.

    February 21, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
  3. bribarian

    This might possibly be the worst rap I've ever, if they come out and explain the child is deaf then i'll understand why the song is without any pitch or tone. The lyrics werent original or catchy either.

    February 21, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
    • bribarian

      ever heard*

      February 21, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
    • End Religion

      Are you bri-sexual?

      February 21, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • patiat

      The kid's 13, you know. Probably 12, actually, since it's announcing his bar mitzvah. Go easy on him. Even Bob Dylan had to take a few years to mature as a poet.

      February 21, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • Michael E

      This was a intended to be a private invitation video for this kid's family and friends, it wasn't an audition tape for American Idol. I think it shows tremendous creativity and enthusiasm. It's sad to read all the hate being directed at this little guy.

      February 21, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
  4. Liz

    A nod to the "oys". They are what make this so funny! Kid, you are a riot. Keep it up and enjoy your big day!

    February 21, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
  5. Bear Jew

    Well, now that Daniel is becoming a man I'm sure he'll be ecstatic to learn that the world is full of people who can't wait to turn a child's (privileged or not; jewish or not) attempt at fun into an excuse to spew their bigotry and small mindedness. From the idiots who declare "his DAD must be well connected" (because sure his Mom would never, ever be the connected one, silly woman!), to the self-righteous moralists who can't witness anything "jewish" without juxtaposing it the plight of the palestinians (as if Daniel or his parents are in the IDF or something), to the downright racists and bigots who can't decide what they they hate more, rap (because it's black, duh) or jews (becuase, why not).

    Way to go CNN commenters! Winners, all of you!

    February 21, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
    • bribarian

      This might possibly be the worst rap I've ever, if they come out and explain the child is deaf then i'll understand why the song is without any pitch or tone. The lyrics werent original or catchy either.

      February 21, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
    • patiat

      Right you are. The vast majority of the negativity being expressed here says a LOT more about the commenter than it does about young Daniel. Sure, hataz gon' hate....but hate a 13 year old?

      February 21, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
    • Historian

      Bear Jew, that was the best comment I have read on here way to go could not have said it better myself.

      February 22, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  6. Godoflunaticscreation

    I have some advice for this kid. Stick to mooching off your rich dad.

    February 21, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
    • patiat

      Nowhere did it say he's chosen rap as a career. He's going to go to college and, unless you're one of the 1% or close to it, he's going to do a lot more things a lot more successfully than you or I. Why the hatred?

      February 21, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
    • Michael E

      I didn't read anything about his father's net worth; and how exactly is this 13 year old kid "mooching" off anyone. You appear to have a lot of hate. It's sad that you've chosen to vent it towards this kid.

      February 21, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
  7. Godoflunaticscreation

    This has to be the saddest attempt at rap I have ever witnessed....yes even worse than Madonna!

    February 21, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
    • patiat

      You are aware that it's supposed to be for fun, not an audition, don't you? Please, at least lie to us so our minds don't reel at the thought that you actually believe otherwise.

      February 21, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
  8. Fiona

    Very cute, but I hate to see any kid imitating the gangsta look (those chains...yuck!). They don't understand what ugliness lies behind it.

    And I really dislike the endless oys.

    February 21, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • clevercandi

      the "oys" were the BEST PART!!! LOL :)

      February 21, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
  9. KB

    What a fun idea! Mazel Tov!

    February 21, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
  10. Daniel

    Fun

    February 21, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
  11. ObamaFailedU

    If these people were not given attention they would just go away.

    February 21, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
  12. bribarian

    I've had sloppy diarrhea that made a better rap than this...

    February 21, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
  13. bribarian

    This is stupid, get of my internet.

    February 21, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
  14. trippsmom

    people chill out, kid made a song. I would rather hear about this than a bunch of people getting shot at and killed like every other day! Yea it was pretty lame, but at least he tried! :)

    February 21, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
  15. ajz

    hows 100,000 views a "viral" video?

    cnn is pathetic

    this is one one the worse videos, please people, do not watch his video, you are only giving him false fame.

    February 21, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • End Religion

      Why be jealous over his neat video? Is it because you've never made anything of merit?

      February 21, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • Michael E

      160,000+ views of a video that was created purely as an invitation for family and friends... that seems pretty viral to me. Also, why the hate? Ths creative and enthusiastic kid deserves his fifteen minutes of fame. It's something he'll be able to cherish his whole life.

      February 21, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
  16. NorCalMojo

    His father must be pretty well connected.

    February 21, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
  17. WhatTheFlyinFudge

    This video IS NOT worthy of any hate or condemnation, however it IS a huge display of self-indulgence from a spoiled kid whose parents are well connected in Atlanta. It's the parent's fault for letting this drivel leak onto the filthy internet.

    I shouldn't be watching this video, let alone commenting on it.

    He seems like a good kid who does well in school, and is actively engaged in his faith – Good For Him! His parents should feel LUCKY. The video is extremely tacky & stupid, though.

    February 21, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • Akira

      The filthy internet? What are you doing on it, then?

      February 21, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
  18. Jon

    That the worst rapping I have ever heard! This is a viral video? I read this because I thought the kid can sing but that is so bad! The kid can't sing!

    February 21, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  19. who cares??

    You know who runs CNN????????

    February 21, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
  20. Marco Esteban

    that's just awful.. Viral? really?

    February 21, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
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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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.