In much of America's Jewish community, bar mitzvahs are fondly and half-jokingly referred to as "the most uncomfortable day of your life." Think about it: Newly minted teens, often at the peak of their physical awkwardness, have to chant vowel-less Hebrew passages from the Torah in front of scores — sometimes hundreds! — of their friends and family members, then move on to a party where all eyes are on them as they palm-sweatingly try to work up the nerve to ask another awkward teen to dance. Not exactly YouTube material, right?
Well, okay, the Bar Mitzvah itself doesn't make for a particularly compelling watch. But a growing batch of Bar Mitzvah video invitations are proving to be a huge hit with the YouTube set.
The latest making waves comes from the thoroughly impressive Jorel Hoffert, a 12-year-old Toronto resident whose Queen-meets-Gangnam Style mashup video invitation will have you jumping out of your chair and cheering.
With his parents and grandparents making good-sport cameos, Jorel epically transitions from "We Will Rock You" to "We are the Champions" to "Bohemian Rhapsody" before finally finishing off with "Gangnam Style," dance and all. The sound quality is great, the choreography beats even the best Electric Sliders, and the lyrics are pretty brilliant. (To the tune of "We are the Champions": "And with mistakes / There might be a few / I consider it a challenge / To read Hebrew without vowels / I hope I'm not screwed!")
Now to be fair, Jorel has some major advantages. His dad (who told the Wall Street Journal it's "just a family project) is a music producer who handled some of the Beastie Boys' early tracks, and his mom is an opera instructor. But nonetheless, this is definitely more enjoyable than the Harvard men's swim team version of "Call Me Maybe."
Jorel is hardly alone. His video follows hot on the heels of Atlanta native Daniel Blumen's "Welcome to Atlanta" save the date video.
More than 300,000 viewers have watched the adorable 13-year-old's take on the Jermaine Dupri-Ludacris original. With shots of the Bar Mitzvah boy with DJ Frank Ski and even Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, the cast of celebrities is pretty impressive, but again, it's the lyrics that will get you. The fabulous, tween-appropriate lines include "Let's get back to the party / Coke for kids / For adults, Bacardi" and "Now I get top billing and I'm just chilling / Just wish I weren't allergic to Penicillin."
Of course, not everyone is taking delight in these Bar Mitzvah invitation videos. Adam Chandler at Tablet feels they've "jumped the shark." While they may "redefine the way you look at Jewish-American ritual," as well as "the production value of homemade non-porn videos," he says, Jorel's might be a sign that the trend has outlived its welcome. His replacement line in the "Bohemian Rhapsody" segment of "I'm just a young boy hoping for some money" is "cringe-worthy," says Chandler. Besides, the opulence of these videos may detract from the spirit of the day, and the emphasis on a Bar Mitzvah being a religious and personal milestone.
Still, there's something undeniably delightful about watching pre-pubescents in all their clumsy glory singing and rapping about the big day. They're at that age just before they're self-aware enough to freeze up and become fearful of how potentially embarrassing and high-school-ruining these videos could be. Moreover, there's nothing wrong with infusing more fun into a three-hour service in an ancient language.
Plus, it's a little late to turn back the clock on the over-the-top Bar Mitzvah spectacles. Just look at Shaun Sperling's fabulously choreographed Madonna entrance from 1992, even before the days of YouTube.