Reaching the JewTube Generation

While rocking out to popular tunes with a Jewish message is fantastic, some of the more recent Jewish-themed videos are moving beyond the marketing plug, instead worthy for their educational value.

Dan Dorsch
Rabbi Dan Dorsch
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Dan Dorsch
Rabbi Dan Dorsch

A couple of weeks ago, our cousins from Winnipeg sent my wife and me a link to a Rosh Hashannah YouTube video made in honor of the upcoming new year. The video featured a group called the Fountainheads from a school in Israel called the Ein Prat Academy for Leadership, in what was a parody of the World-Cup sensation, "Waka Waka".

The song tells listeners to dip the apples in the honey “because it's Rosh Hashannah.” Remarkably, the video had already received 417,100 views since it was posted roughly two weeks before and the hits are rapidly rising. That means, factoring in that a few people may have watched it more than once, somewhere around 300,000-400,000 people took the time to watch this four minute video.

The idea of creating a Jewish YouTube video –what I like to call a "JewTube video" - spoofing pop-songs seems to have taken off this year, an explosive trend that will in all likelihood continue in the coming years.

YouTube.Credit: Bloomberg

JewTube videos seem to have reached all segments of the Jewish world, speaking to a broad and diverse Jewish audience. Yeshiva University’s all-male Maccabeats launched Candlelight (based on Taio Cruz’s Dynamite) for Hannukah that attracted close to 6 million hits and transformed the Jewish a cappella group into a synagogue and campus touring sensation.

While rocking out to popular tunes with a Jewish message is fantastic, I am beginning to notice that some of the more recent JewTube videos are moving beyond the marketing plug, and are instead worthy for their educational value.

Three years ago, the successful Haman Purim video by rap artist Matt Barr sparked what is now known as the Bible Raps project, whose website features educational holiday videos for teachers to use inside the classroom (the Purim video has 100,000 hits).

The educational publisher Behrman House has recently acquired the "Media Midrash" website, which features videos and clips about holidays, Torah and Israel for teaching purposes.

The Book of Proverbs 22:6 instructs us that we are “to instruct each child according to his or her own way.” The JewTube trend is doing exactly that; taking an accessible and popular medium and using it to promote awareness and celebration of Jewish holidays among the younger generation of Jews.

For a generation with a limited attention span, having a synagogue record a four-minute video to the tune of a pop-song could be a more affective tool for teaching Torah than a twenty-minute sermon at the pulpit, not only because it could be disseminated to a larger audience, but because it could actually have a real and lasting impact on our children.

Sadly, I have little doubt that for some Jews watching these videos may be all that they do to acknowledge the Jewish holidays. Despite this limited exposure to Judaism, it is also real food for thought; how can Jews capitalize on the JewTube trend to actually reach the younger generation of often disconnected Jews?

For years, educators have frowned upon teachers showing videos in the classroom, however, as the newer generation of Jews becomes more reliant on using multimedia tools to learn new things, the idea of using videos to promote Jewish messages becomes an increasingly viable option for Jewish education.

When done right, these videos can provide an infinite number of possibilities to engage our next generation in Jewish tradition.

Therefore, in lieu of my Yom Kippur sermon this year, I would like you all to click here for an oldie but goodie, as I extend to all of the Haaretz readers wishes for a Shanah Tova and a meaningful fast.

Rabbi Daniel Dorsch is the Assistant Rabbi of Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston, New Jersey.



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