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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. Shery Barnes

    Lachiam! Excellent job! You should be proud. Don't listen to nay sayers, just jealous or old school. You bring it and your wonderful. Happy 13th!

    February 22, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  2. PRIV

    Privilege can be ugly

    February 22, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  3. Atheism is healthy for everyone - pets too!

    Prayer is just a time-sucker-upper.

    February 22, 2013 at 9:55 am |
  4. Em

    Do Jewish people know that Jesus is the King of the Jew's and that he died for our sin's?

    February 22, 2013 at 7:25 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Why should the Jews, or anyone, believe what you can't even begin to prove?

      February 22, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • sam stone

      Do you know that apostrophes do not belong when you are indicating plurals?

      February 22, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      There were many claimaints to the Messiah role in and around the time of the New Testament, like Simon of Peraea, Athronges, Menahem ben Judah, Vespasian, Simon bar Kokhba, etc. ad nauseum.
      And don't forget – The Messiah must be from David's line, but Jesus cannot be "son of David" through Joseph becuase Joseph is not His biological father. A tribal line also does not pass through the mother.

      February 22, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • Check

      Em
      "Do Jewish people know that Jesus is the King of the Jew's and that he died for our sin's?"

      No... and nobody else "knows" it either, although some "believe" it and try to push it off as fact.

      (and your greengrocers' apostrophes are silly too)

      February 22, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    February 22, 2013 at 7:13 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 22, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  6. linda

    Great "save the date". Anyone who takes offense is just too sensitive. Antisemitism is not caused by making fun of ourselves. It's just there and whatever we do, it won't go away. Mazal tov on your BM!

    February 22, 2013 at 6:57 am |
  7. ron

    This is America darnit this kid and his folks can do whatever the heck they want without all these negative opinions.
    If you don't have nothing nice to say then shut the $^^k up!!!

    February 22, 2013 at 12:41 am |
  8. dexter waweru

    Go Jews!

    February 22, 2013 at 12:23 am |
  9. Josie B

    I've never understood the argument that the Jews are somehow being punished by God for their role in the crucifiction. It was God's plan!!! Jesus was born a man to die for our sins. We should be thanking the Jews for their role in our salvation.

    February 21, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
    • hawkeye

      Jesus was/isn't real sweetheart. Grow up.

      February 21, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
    • Josie B

      I respect your right to believe that, Hawkeye. If you're so grown up, why is it so difficult of you to respect mine?

      February 21, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
    • End Religion

      Josie there's simply no reason to assume that talking to imaginary creatures deserves any respect whatsoever. Your further belief that people respect the religion of fealty to imaginary fiction is even more ridiculous. You've been coddled long enough. Get your thumb out of your mouth and grow up.

      February 21, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • Josie B

      My God is very real. I feel sorry for closed-minded people who have an illusion of superiority.

      February 22, 2013 at 1:09 am |
    • sam stone

      why would you praise jesus when it was his daddy/himself who set this whole trap up for his own self-glorification?

      February 22, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • sam stone

      Josie: I respect your right to believe. But, if you come on a public forum to trumpet those beliefs, you cannot expect to have it unchallenged. As far as an illusion of superiority, it is theists who claim to know what god thinks, so that burden is yours

      February 22, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Henry Kissinger

      They already have their own stupid fairy tales like God turning white Europeans into "Hebrews" and Moses and the jews wandering the desert for 40 years. Oh yeah and that thing about "GAWD" giving them Palestine.

      February 22, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  10. eagleeye

    I am totally dismayed by the ignorance expressed here towards a child by adults. this shows you how pathetic we have become as a society that we elevate ourselves at the expense of children and i hope that every one of you drops dead

    February 21, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
    • ..

      Psst...now don't be shocked...we're ALL going to drop dead one day...

      February 22, 2013 at 1:57 am |
  11. Terri

    Wow...I'm shocked at the amount of negative comments.. Very judgemental of a kid and how his family spends THEIR money...If you earn it, spend it how you choose.

    February 21, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
  12. Diane

    I think it was a clever and fun way to invite people to his Bar Mitzvah and anyone who doesn't like it has no sense of humor or fun. Good going Daniel. Enjoy your day.

    February 21, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
  13. JW

    I think it was fun.... nothing wrong with it... anyone who has an issue with it... HAS ISSUES... and needs to look in the mirror and figure out what their own problem is...

    February 21, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
  14. Susan Hartwig

    He looks like a young Wolf Blitzer, except Wolf is a better dancer.

    February 21, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
  15. bribarian

    It was just plain awful. This kid has no skills or rhythm. He had no tone, no good pitch, and the lyrics were beyond awful. I think you guys should remove the video before he become the new Rebecca Black.

    February 21, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
    • busterbobby

      Now let's find that guy who put a gun to your head and forced you to watch the whole thing.

      February 21, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
    • ..

      Busterbobby, LMAO!

      February 22, 2013 at 2:01 am |
    • Alexx

      Also the Falcons suck.

      February 22, 2013 at 6:32 am |
    • Saraswati

      The kid was making an entertaining invite not trying to win awards. It was funny and a good effort – grow up.

      February 22, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • sam stone

      He's a kid. Chill out, bribarian

      February 22, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  16. loler

    no mcp123, they were extradited to the u.s during operation paperclip. and put to work incharge of lot's of different fields. like NASA. TY FOR GETTING US TO THE "MOON"

    February 21, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
  17. Truth

    I think CNN should remove this story and apologize for it. All the comments above show that these types of stories lead very quickly to antisemistism.

    February 21, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
    • sam stone

      Remove the story? Apologize for it? It was a nice story.

      February 22, 2013 at 9:48 am |
  18. Truth

    Why is it considered funny to see a jewish boy doing rap music? Why CNN does not show a christian doing rap music? Do you think there is not enough antisemistism in this world?

    February 21, 2013 at 9:29 pm |

    • I did not know that there is antisemistism in the world.

      February 21, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
  19. Joshua

    How cute. 4,000 years of Jewish history, tradition and culture plus a vibrant multi-ethnic music scene in modern Israel, and another American bar mitzvah child decides to imitate Black rappers. Oy!

    February 21, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
    • Michael E

      What in the world does Israel's multi-ethnic music scene have to do with this kid's personal taste in music. He's an American teenager; he doesn't live in Israel. Whether you like Rap or hate it, there's no denying that Rap is part of America's multi-ethnic music scene. I think his enthusiasm for his Bar Mitzvah is wonderful.

      February 21, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
  20. Bill Richardson

    This is what happens when cultures collide. How sad.

    February 21, 2013 at 8:25 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.