Around the high holidays of 2022 there’s been a wild (and totally unexpected) online TikTok craze of millions of people (mostly non-Jews) getting excited and into old Miami Boys Choir (MBC) videos, dance moves, soloists and songs. It sparked a whole genre, of both enthusiasts, rankers and raters, mimics and commentators, it’s really quite something. No one saw this coming!
This particular post here is not about the whole craze but about the reactions to one particular MBC “Yerushalayim” song that seems to have been getting a lot of attention. A lot of the tweets sharing the TikTok videos of this MBC song (including one interpretation of it in Japanese) is how Yerachmiel Begun (the composer and choirmaster) and his Miami Boys Choir never envisioned that they would be turning all these TikTok’ers into Zionists!
Here’s the thing, though. I agree with the sentiment and wonder of it all, and no doubt singing about Jerusalem (no matter the meaning of the verse/song) is beneficial. And no question, there are many Torah verses and quite a few MBC Songs that focus on Jerusalem (there’s even a whole musical play they did titled: “On the Road to Yerushalayim”).
But this Jerusalem song isn’t about Jerusalem! This song, based on a verse from Psalms 125, uses Jerusalem and its surrounding mountains as a metaphor for G-d’s everlasting supportive love for the Jewish people. So Jerusalem is in the song, its in the verse, but its not about Jerusalem, rather its about the people.
Often with the high holidays people may think that location or venue is critical, “the being in synagogue”. While there’s certainly value in that, it is more important to realize that the focus is more on the people than the place.
Years ago I heard that Ernest & Young (or perhaps another of the Big Four) doesn’t own any real-estate. They lease all their properties (and this long before Covid and remote work being a serious option) because they don’t invest in buildings, rather in people.
I’m not going to say that spaces aren’t important. Jerusalem is a holy city, and we personally invested a lot in making Shabbos House a welcoming and useful center for students. But remember that a place is nothing without people. People make the space. People make a congregation.
People make a Jewish campus community at UAlbany. Your participation and involvement makes its mark, adds something to the mix, your unique contribution along that of many others, creates a special mix and blend that is Jewish life here. You are needed and it wouldn’t be the same without you.