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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. steve

    why does the kid say "oy oy oy!" ? it butchers the video. so random to

    February 23, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
  2. Gordon Brown

    It's really sad to see that even Jewish children are becoming as brain dead as other ethnic groups.

    February 23, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • bob

      do you think some ethnic groups are smarter then others? wooooooooow. its just pigment in the skin that affects skin color

      February 23, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • Gordon Brown

      Well, B.O.B., yes I am. Anyone that follows RAP is a meaningless and childlike mind that has to be 10-30% brain damaged.

      February 23, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
    • End Religion

      I must have missed the studies on this. Gordon, I'm sure you can point to them?

      February 23, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
    • Gordon Brown

      END Religion - You have missed most of your life. Why should I point out anything to you now?

      February 23, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Gordon Brown = one of the two grumpy old codgers on The Muppets.

      February 23, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • End Religion

      Gordon, are you Staler or Waldorf?

      February 23, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
    • End Religion

      I'm gonna go with Statler.

      February 23, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
  3. Tim

    What, slow news day...can i see real news please

    February 23, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
  4. franseska

    all their music sound like ours, they dress like us, talk like us, walk like us, drive down the street with wheels all chromed up like ours... but america still is a white racist nation.

    February 23, 2013 at 10:37 am |
  5. Banjo Ferret

    This amuses Tim the Destroyer of Worlds. Too bad this little chap has been indoctrinated with a false sky daddy. There is still time little rapper. Ferretianism is the one true religion. Repent! (banjoferret d c)

    February 23, 2013 at 9:55 am |
  6. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    February 23, 2013 at 7:05 am |

    • No it doesn't. Completely unfounded BS.

      February 23, 2013 at 9:54 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 24, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  7. Texcoco

    Honestly I don't think the video is that good, or viral material. Obviously someone put money in to this video and for that reason I don't take it as a talented people. If it was raw material it will be a different thing.

    February 23, 2013 at 12:23 am |
    • End Reigion

      You have no idea how the world works, do you?

      February 23, 2013 at 3:56 am |
  8. Sara Howells


    *

    February 22, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
  9. bribarian

    After CNN posted this bogus article, I tried to find where exactly this is "viral", it isnt. And once you hear this diarrhea called a song you'll understand why, it's like a deaf mute trying to rap with lyrics that aren't creative or original in any way.

    February 22, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
    • End Religion

      what makes it viral is you continually posting the same thing about it.

      February 22, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • bribarian

      If he wants to be Rebecca Black viral, than he's well on his way.

      February 22, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • End Religion

      And there's the other part of what seems to be the only 2 thoughts you've ever had. Brilliant!

      February 22, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • bribarian

      I have a whole bank of goodies.

      February 22, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
    • End Reigion

      I see no evidence to back up your assertion.

      February 23, 2013 at 2:20 am |
  10. lol??

    "....We're trying to get kids to take leadership positions ........." The culture already has that. How 'bout sumpin' new??

    February 22, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
  11. John Henderson

    This YouTube video isn't even close to being a hit, it's not even good or creative. Multiple little kids have done this before and the only reason there is an article on this is because (wouldn't you know) the author is Jewish!

    February 22, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • End Religion

      Your conspiratorial view of the world is a convenient scapegoat for your own multitude of failures.

      February 22, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • Akira

      Way to denigrate a kid, bigot.

      February 23, 2013 at 12:05 am |
  12. Sharon

    I think it's fabulous and very creative, muzaltov to the family and I'm rooting for you Daniel.

    February 22, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
  13. The Crazy Jew

    Was it in bad taste? Yes. But the kid was just reflecting the kitsch nature of American society. The few bar Mitzvahs I've been to have ALL been kitsch. As for atheism being healthy for people, ask the millions who died under Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and others how that worked for them. The adults are talking. Atheist children should be seen and not heard. Your way was tried most of the last century, and failed (see the above leaders for details).

    February 22, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • sam stone

      it wasn't atheism that killed these people, it was totalitarianism. try again

      February 22, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    This is why I have lost faith in the human race. Take something that's means so much and defile it.

    February 22, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Redwood Forest

      You've lost faith in entire human race based on a video by a 13 year old? wow!

      February 22, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Stud

      Why are you surprised...we know that these people defile everything around them...so no surprise here.

      February 22, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • Akira

      "These people" being thireteen-year-old boys?

      February 23, 2013 at 12:13 am |
  15. S the D

    Hi. I am an obvious jewish troll.

    February 22, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • S the D

      Yes, it makes perfect sense that a "Jewish troll" would post negative things above his own people. You must be religious!

      February 22, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
  16. Avi

    I could totally jam to this while I am bulldozing a Palestinian family's home and olive orchard! Mazaltov!

    February 22, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
  17. Henry Kissinger

    Hi, I am a zionist pig. I like to call arabs "Anti-semites" which is funny because they are semites and I am not. But hey...Im "God's Chosen" so I can do whatever the hell I please.

    February 22, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Lycidas

      I think you need to look up the definition of anti-semitic.

      February 22, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • sam stone

      so, being anti people who are semites but not jews is not anti-semitism?

      February 22, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Semitic refers to a body of languages.
      Anti-semitic is a phrase coined in the 1800's specifically toward Jewish ppl.

      February 22, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
  18. Poot and Toot

    Make sure not to tip the caterer anything over 2 %. Oui!

    February 22, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
  19. Tarzana

    We should force those dirty Arabs to watch this and show them who their boss is.

    February 22, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
  20. Tupac

    Yo dawg! He gonna bust some caps in those Palestinians! Only God can give me Israel! Not some stupid British mandate!

    February 22, 2013 at 12:16 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.