Forgive Us for Clicking on Sam Horowitz's Bar Mitzvah Drama

We All Played Some Small Role in Helping It Go Viral

Proud Moment? Sam Horowitz may have enjoyed the 15 minutes of fame (or infamy) sparked by his gaudy bar mitzvah video. But truth be told, we all played a role in making it go viral.
youtube
Proud Moment? Sam Horowitz may have enjoyed the 15 minutes of fame (or infamy) sparked by his gaudy bar mitzvah video. But truth be told, we all played a role in making it go viral.

By Jordana Horn

Published August 23, 2013, issue of August 30, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Ashamnu, bagadnu, gazalnu, dibarnu dofi.

The words of the Vidui are familiar to most Jews as being part of the Yom Kippur collective confessional. When we recite the Vidui, we all stand — as congregants, as people, as Jews — and confess to sins. These sins to which we confess are ones that we ourselves may or may not have committed. We make a collective confession, however, so that people who have actually committed these sins will feel less self-conscious about admitting their failings — and perhaps to own that we have each, in some small way, committed some fragment of the wrongdoing mentioned.

We have become desolate, we have betrayed, we have stolen, we have spoken duplicitously.

In some small part, I fear that I helped the now-infamous Sam Horowitz bar mitzvah video along on its path from innocuous to viral. I was sent the link by a friend, and promptly posted it to my Facebook page. Among my Facebook friends are social media gurus, television producers, journalists and both amateur and professional yentas. Like a hot potato, the video jumped from person to person, culminating in a “Good Morning America” interview.

Rabbi David Wolpe wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post in which, as a rabbi, he derided the ”egregious, licentious and thoroughly awful” video, which showed the young man dancing with scantily clad women in an elaborately choreographed extravaganza — and another later op-ed in which he apologized for anything he wrote which may have been hurtful to the boy and his family. Certainly there is an important discussion to be had about Jewish celebrations and the qualitative nature of those celebrations.

The avalanche of commentary on appropriate levels of expenditure and showiness associated with Jewish ritual was probably not what the family was looking for when they placed their bar mitzvah boy on a virtual world stage. Horowitz’s family is philanthropically active and is making a positive impact on the Jewish community in Dallas and in the world at large: The bar mitzvah raised, at the family’s request, more than $35k for a youth village in Israel. That being said, putting the video on YouTube — not password protected, not just for family viewings — invited comments.

It seems to me, though, that the video’s popularity says just as much about us, its viewers, as it does about the Horowitz family. Many were quick to judge the video and the spirit that motivated it. But this video’s popularity is actually nothing less than a window into the more salacious, tawdry and unfortunate parts of ourselves.

Rabbi Jesse Olitzky, in the context of a Facebook conversation on the topic, said: “We are the ones who made this video an Internet sensation. We are the ones that made it viral. We are the ones that use social media to talk about an individual (not a concept) — a young boy who just became a bar mitzvah. We are the ones who are in the wrong for publicly scorning, for publicly condemning. Humanity has an obsession with publicly criticizing one another. Social media has only encouraged such activity. Our faith teaches that public embarrassment is the equivalent of murder. Let us focus on Cheshbon Hanefesh [an accounting of the soul] in ourselves instead of being nit-picky about others.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.