TikTok’s latest musical craze has nothing to do with pop stars or Top 40 hits. Instead, users are obsessed with a 2007 recording of a choir of Jewish tween boys singing an Orthodox pop song in Hebrew.
The now grown members of the Miami Boys Choir said they are still trying to wrap their heads around their newfound viral fame.
The 15-year-old performance of the song “Yerushalayim” (which translates to “Jerusalem”) was viewed more than 7 million times on the platform.
The clip highlights four soloists – David Herskowitz, Binyamin Abramowitz, Yoshi Bender and Akiva Abramowitz – who have quickly become sensations on the platform.
“No idea what they’re saying, but David killed that,” one person wrote in the video’s commentary section.
“[I don’t care] whatever someone says, Yoshi sets the tone,” wrote another.
Another simply commented, “Kpop (kosher pop).”
The newfound fame was both hilarious and completely unexpected for the soloists from the original video.
“We’ve never received such recognition. It’s fascinating,” Abramowitz said. “The fact that everyone in the world loves this, even if they don’t understand the language…I’m trying to get my head around it.”
Abramowitz, 24, and Herskowitz, 27, both joined the choir around age 9 and left at age 14.
They said they weren’t on TikTok before the viral video took off and instead heard how big it had become from friends and relatives texting them that they were TikTok celebrities.
“I probably hadn’t seen that video of myself in 10 years, so it was really funny to see it,” Herskowitz said.
The video was posted on August 21, but only started to explode in popularity last week. As of Wednesday, more than 6,600 videos had used “Yerushalayim” audio.
Herskowitz has since created an account, where he has posted a few Miami Boys Choir themed videos. Abramowitz said he created an account but hasn’t posted anything yet.
The Miami Boys Choir was founded in 1977 by Yerachmiel Begun in Miami Beach, Florida. It later moved to New York City, although it kept its original name. Dozens of his performances are available on YouTube and the choir’s website. The group also releases an album every year.
The group organizes events around major Jewish holidays and tours both domestically and internationally – although tours have been paused during the coronavirus pandemic.
Begun’s son, Chananya Begun, started the Miami Boys Choir TikTok account just over two months ago.
“I said to him, ‘Dad, we have to use TikTok. … There is a chance, no one knows for sure, but there is a chance that something crazy could happen,'” Chananya Begun recalls that he had his father told.
He said he believed the choir could become a TikTok sensation because Orthodox pop is “extremely real and sincere and deep…and it’s an extreme pursuit of excellence.”
The original video has become so popular on the platform that some have even bought the full version.
At this time, members of the 2007 choir have no concrete plans to reunite, they said. But some of them, saying they’d been out of contact for many years, formed a group chat and said they were interested in getting together – possibly making new music.
Herskowitz released a song he wrote, produced and sang called “You” on TikTok. Abramowitz, who is in residency to become a gastroenterologist, said he sometimes sings with his brothers but is considering making music a bigger hobby after the overwhelming response to the 2007 video.
“I think maybe I’ll focus a little more on music and show people, if they really want to see it, what I have to offer,” Abramowitz said, adding that he’s considering uploading music to his newly created TikTok account.
Herskowitz said there was an additional beauty in the nostalgic video that went viral: It was received positively, with very few anti-Semitic comments.
“There is so much hatred and so much negativity and so much difference in the world,” Herskowitz said. “And to see people unite and love something that’s positive and pro-Israel and pro-Judaism, I think that was just so much fun, and that really blew me away.”
CORRECTION (September 29, 2022, 12:30 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article mistranslated a song title. “Yerushalayim” means “Jerusalem”, not “Jerusalem of gold”.