• Shternie Bell

Lessons from a viral TikTok


I

sat down at my computer to write my weekly Torah thought. I first went on Instagram for what I thought would be a few minutes but turned out to be over an hour as I went down the rabbit hole when I discovered that Miami Boys Choir, an Orthodox Jewish boy's choir had gone viral on Tiktok with 4 million views on one of their videos as of this writing.


The Miami Boys Choir holds a very dear place in my heart. Besides for growing up on their music (and the source of every Orthodox girl's first crush), I attended a live concert of theirs as a kid. My oldest sister Chana Miriam A"H got us all tickets and the memory of that concert stands out as a highlight in my childhood. She also recorded herself playing the keyboard while singing their song "Sunshine". Chana Miriam passed away in 2005, which deepened my connection with this choir.


It was strange to see videos from 15+ years ago of this choir striking a chord with millions of people, mostly non Jewish, from around the world. What is so compelling about this choir? I wonder.


I think what was captured in that short clip is Jewish joy that is loud, proud and unabashed. While our struggles, discord and the violence towards us is highlighted so often in the media, our joy rarely gets airtime.


We have met so many local Jews with what I call "Jewish Trauma". Some of it can be traced back to the annual High Holiday mandatory synagogue visit. Being forced to sit through services that hold no meaning for several hours creates negative associations and feeds the cycle of guilt and shame. It does not lay the foundation for a meaningful relationship with our Judaism.


This viral video brought back the reminder for me that our heritage is one of joy and when displayed openly, it creates the opportunity for expansive connection. As we start this month of holidays, I would like to invite you to experience your Judaism in a way that is joyful, loud and proud.


There are 2 times a year in El Cerrito that I feel this joy on display very strongly. One is at the Chanukah Menorah Car Parade as the parade is cheered on by excited onlookers. The second is at Shofar in the Park as 100+ Jews gather in Arlington Park, singing together and ushering in the New Year with the sound of the Shofar. I hope you'll join us this Monday, September 26 at 5 pm as we celebrate our Judaism together at the start of the New Year.


With wishes for a Shana Tova U'metuka, a happy, healthy and SWEET New Year, Shternie

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