This vintage video of a Jewish boys choir has gone viral on TikTok — and it’s a joy to watch
The Miami Boys Choir has gone viral on TikTok. A video version of the song “Yerushalayim” has racked up millions of views, as the non-Jewish world discovers Orthodox pop with all its energy and “oys” and innocent dance moves. In other words, TikTok is falling in love with ruach.
These “Jewish choir boys are the only thing keeping me afloat atm,” wrote one besotted user.
He’s not alone.
Thousands of TikTok users are recording their own personal responses to a catchy Hebrew song that is a verse from Tehillim, or the Psalms. Many describe themselves as “obsessed” with the song and the singers. Dance moves and admiring commentary abound; one young woman’s TikTok video commenting on the choir has racked up 378,000 views and counting.
Meanwhile, those who grew up in the Orthodox world listening to this music have taken to social media to document how astonished and amused they are at this extremely unexpected trend.
On TikTok, though, no one seems too concerned about what the Hebrew words mean; it’s all about “how into it he is” and how addicted users are to the song, which admittedly gets into your brain as the app replays the 40-second clip unless you stop it. People can’t seem to stop watching Yoshi Bender, C. Abromowitz, David Herskowitz and Binyomin Abramowitz.
Meet the MBC stans
A “stan” is a super-fan, and on TikTok, the four boys each have their ardent fans. One popular form of video is “I rate the Miami boys choir” with different boys in slots 1, 2, 3 and 4, with TikTok users explaining their rationale. The comments on these videos are wild, as hundreds of thousands of people debate the singing ability, dance moves, expressions, charisma and stage presence of four yeshiva boys singing about God and Jerusalem.
The term stan, which is now often used as a verb, is “a reference to the Eminem song Stan,” according to Urban Dictionary. That song is about an overly obsessed fan (named Stan) who writes letters to Eminem and ends up driving off a bridge with his pregnant wife, because Eminem didn’t write him back.
Here is a lovely video with the response — “we stan” — to the Miami Boys Choir.
This TikTok user called Binyomin “potentially Michael Jackson in disguise.”
But where does the song even come from?
So what is the song exactly? It’s Psalms 125:2. In the 1985 Jewish Publication Society translation, it reads: “Jerusalem, hills enfold it / and the LORD enfolds His people / now and forever.” The opening hand motions in the song are the boys miming how hills surround the city of Jerusalem.
You can read the original Hebrew and translations on Sefaria.
But if TikTok is more your thing, this video from NotaRabbi Yet explains the Hebrew.
The pronunciation is not Israeli, but is instead Yiddish-inflected Hebrew, or what you hear in Ashkenazi yeshiva circles in New York. Leh’amo is pronounced lee’amo, and meh’ata is pronounced mee’ata. The high point of the song is — “oy Yerushalayim oy Yershalayim.”
The “oy” is of course not part of the Hebrew psalm.
As more and more people watch the 40-second clip from 2008, the Miami Boys Choir has been responding to TikTok users through comments on the app, and it has been uploading more clips. Yerachmiel Begun, the adult who has guided the boys in song for decades, and who can be seen in some videos, has been answering the queries of fans in TikTok comments.
Newly obsessed fans, who seem to be in their teens and 20s, are energetically digging through the archives, like this young woman who is a Binyomin superfan— “WE STAN BINYOMIN WHAT A LEGEND” — and records her cat also enjoying his 2008 singing.
Yoshi has his fans too, like this one.
It’s pretty amazing to see the cat bopping to “Ben David avdecha yavoh vyigaleynu” — in other words, a Moshiach song. And some academics on Twitter have expressed concern about what people are actually singing along to, and potential theological or political implications.
But does anyone on TikTok care what it means?
Many videos feature people getting increasingly animated when David or Binyomin sing, at the part of the Yerushalayim song that goes higher. This version of someone acting out and dancing to the song, even though he admits he has no idea what it means, is pretty charming.
Another user claims Binyomin is underrated; he also dances as the song goes on.
A blast from the past
For those who grew up singing in yeshiva choirs, the structure of the melody is familiar; it starts slow and contemplative, in a lower register, and then it goes high. Both David and Binyomin bring plenty of ruach, and rock out to “Yerushalayim.”
Other aspects of this blast from the past are familiar, too — the benches singers stand on and the ubiquitous smoke machines. But it’s also clear that in 2008, no one imagined that video evidence could live forever, with an audience of millions instead of just the religious Jewish community.
These preteens live in a world before social media. They could not imagine that at some point in the future, folks who probably are not yeshiva grads would use a 40-second clip to try and guess at the boys’ personalities.
Go down the TikTok rabbit hole, and you’ll find lots of fans that have no idea what the Hebrew says, and are far off-base in their guesses.
You’ll also find those who seem to know the Hebrew words, and who recognize the Miami Boys Choir from childhood, like this guy who says he loved MBC before he loved strollers.
Where are they now?
So what happened to these boys? Everyone wants to know. In recent hours, TikTok went crazy when one of the 2008 stars, David Herskovitz, made his own videos in response — as the adult he is now. Here he is, filmed in bed, watching his preteen self go viral. At this writing, it had over 260,000 views.
He has also corrected the pronunciation of his last name, which was misspelled in the video.
As the trend of Miami Boys Choir obsession continues, a new trend of Jewish TikTokers explaining the effect of the video on them has taken root. A young woman says that she was “staunchly atheist” but is now feeling really connected to Judaism because of this video. She says that her whole life would have changed had she seen this group when she was 9.
“I feel so proud to be Jewish right now. Should I go to shul? It’s almost Rosh Hashanah,” she says. Twitter user Mordechai Burg comments: “I didn’t have viral Miami Boys Choir Tik Tok video stirring the Jewish soul and restoring Jewish Pride on my 2022 Bingo card.”
Perhaps TikTok is just another way that the Lord is “enfolding his people.”