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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.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_sWoZJGCTQ&feature=youtu.be]

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. LizardMom

    Mazel tov! I do hope, Daniel, you grow in your Faith as you pass into manhood and ignore these petty bickerings amongst the narrow-mindent people whose ignorance is NOT bliss. Your 'invitation' was genious! I thoroughly enjoyed it and your ceativity will carry you through life with all its petty little jibs & jabs along the way. May God always be with you and yours. And if God is with you, of whom should you be afraid? Take care, Daniel.

    March 7, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
  2. Smooth Criminal

    Snip snip, its a Rap.

    March 7, 2013 at 8:41 am |
  3. SoljaGurl

    Never mind the Sequestor, lets focus on this kid who is turning 13 and all show up to his party.... ask to borrow a Jewish bank roll, and hall a$$ out the door... SO NEWS WORTHY!!!

    March 4, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • Jumboclout

      It's a whole lot better than watching your dumba$$ ramble

      March 7, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
  4. Rachel

    God bless you Daniel as you read the Torah. What a significant milestone in your life! Hope you continue to grow in your knowledge of the Torah.

    March 3, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
  5. Uncle Schlomo

    Such creepy, $promotional$ people. And they live among us?

    March 3, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  6. FatheRabbImam Agnostica

    He's an extremely annoying little girl.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  7. Rick Wired

    What does "Oy!" mean in English? (Why does the rapper say "Oy! Oy! Oy!"?) In Swedish, it's a common interjection spelled "Oj!", and the first known use in Sweden was in 1587 (according to an etymological word book). I always thought of it as something difficult to explain to non-Scandinavians, but the closest word would probably be "Oh!". I am now surprised to hear this in English, and I'm curious to find out if it means about the same thing in English.

    February 28, 2013 at 7:07 am |
    • FatheRabbImam Agnostica

      It's also "YO, YO, YO" spelled backwards, so it's especially ironic in this case! OY!

      February 28, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • sam stone

      It's an interjection, like "Oh!"

      March 1, 2013 at 8:52 am |
  8. Emma Gribble

    Daniel, I loved it you are a trooper. YOU Go Kid. More Power to you. I hope you have the best day of all. If I had your address
    I would send you a card with some $$$ in it. God Bless.
    Yetta

    February 27, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
  9. Joel

    Daniel, congratulations on your bar mitvah. What an important day in your life. You'll always remember it. As important as it is, there is something even greater. The day I asked Jesus/Yeshua into my life has been the greatest and most important day of my life. For on that day I knew God's forgiveness. A burden was lifted, and I truly knew His peace. His peace has stayed with me to this day, and that was many years ago. Congrats again, and may you come to know His peace through faith in the Messiah of Israel. Shalom

    February 26, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
    • sam stone

      Why do you feel you need forgiveness?

      February 27, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • Joel

      Sam, we also miss the mark, we all sin. "Who can say, I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from sin?...Proverbs 20:9 "There is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins" ....Solomon Song of Songs 7:20

      February 28, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • sam stone

      joel: quoting a book to people who do not accept the validity of the book is not very convincing

      March 1, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • Maximus

      Joel – Really? You're using this as an opportunity to tell the kid his religion is wrong? Oy vey!

      March 3, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • Joel

      Max, why do you say his religion is wrong? You said that, I never did. I congratulated him on his bar mitzvah, and told him there is something even greater than this day. I don't know what you were reading. Judaism is the root of Christianity. Messiah is the One who fulfilles the law and the prophets and the writings. Shalom

      March 3, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
  10. Jizelle

    Hope you had fun Daniel and wishing you well in the study of Torah

    February 25, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
  11. SDerrida

    I think it's entertaining and it made my day. What a cutie pie!

    February 24, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
  12. gofigure

    Leave the kid alone. It is an entertaining, light news story. Lighten up, people

    February 24, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
  13. Renee

    Oy..Oy...Oy...OY lol, why is this even on here?

    February 24, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • sam stone

      because it is entertaining

      February 24, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  14. Francisco

    This is news.........?
    Da faq is wrong with American CNN?

    February 24, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • Starchylde

      This is the Belief Blog of CNN. If you want serious news, go to Politics or World

      March 3, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
    • giovanni

      such buhlsiitte

      March 7, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
  15. laurab68

    I personally can't understand why this is a story on CNN. While I think it's great he's turned 13 and celebrated according to his religious beliefs, but this story is nothing more than a spoiled 13 year old child who will think he's a whole lot better than others because of this. Have him learn a little humility and help out others less fortunate than him.

    February 24, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • sam stone

      why do you feel that he thinks he is better than others?

      February 24, 2013 at 5:15 pm |

  16. spammer selling a book

    February 24, 2013 at 9:22 am |

    • (AvdBerg)

      February 24, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  17. The Crazy Jew

    They were totalitarian in the name of atheism, and often killed for that reason alone (witness the monks and nuns driven into the Volga in winter on account of their faith). The number of churches, synagogues, and mosques converted to other uses, the fact that in the USSR for a long time, the only religious facilities were showpieces designed to make Westerners THINK that there was religious freedom, etc. I don't have to try again. My point has been made, namely, that those tyrants were motivated by atheism to kill. I could talk about about the depredations to the Church under the Calles government in Mexico, or the extreme anti-religion of the French Revolution, but there isn't room, I expect. Sit down, atheist children. The adults are talking now. Go play.

    February 24, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • Realist

      Atheist kids? The adults you speak of are the ones with the imaginary friends.

      March 3, 2013 at 11:23 am |
  18. Embarrassed

    Why is this news? More Jews in the media promoting Jewish propaganda. This is not news CNN!

    February 24, 2013 at 2:06 am |
    • sam stone

      jewish propaganda?

      it must be hard being such a hateful little cvnt

      February 24, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
  19. I Am Butters

    I am surprised that CNN would even post this story since there seems to be so many Anti Semitic people that read and watch CNN.

    February 23, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
  20. Kathy in KC

    He's great, very creative, I love him! What a great kid. I hope his Bar Mitzvah is full of joy and lots of people to celebrate his transition to becoming a fine young man.

    February 23, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
    • msfraternali

      so nice to see a nice comment – thank you

      February 24, 2013 at 2:17 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.