Even for those of us who enjoy our pop with a dash of yiddishkeit, the news a few months back that chart topping rapper Drake (the son of an African-American father and Canadian Jewish mother) would be re-enacting his bar mitzvah for a music video merited a bit of dread.
Pop culture portrayals of bar mitzvahs (Just off the top of my head: Community, Entourage, 30 Rock, A Serious Man) tend to lean towards the negative. The parties are kitschy and opulent, the guests nebbish and uncoordinated, the kids are spoiled or uninterested, the parents hapless and the actual religious ceremony boring affairs devoid of meaning with a light mocking of the idea that reading from the torah makes that small figure an adult. Are many bar mitzvahs like this? Yes. But not all.
So kudos to Drake, because the video for HYFR (ft. Lil Wayne) not only avoids all this, but also, and hear me out, offers the platonic ideal of American Judaism.
Just a few highlights: During the shots in the synagogue, both of Drake’s sides, Jewish and Black, sit engaged as Drake, in tallis and kippah and flanked by an Israeli and American flag, solemnly reads at the bema At the after party, yes, people are drinking Manischewitz out of the bottle, but the people dancing aren’t uncoordinated or bringing ridiculously impressive moves to the floor. They’re just having fun because they’re celebrating something both common and important: the continuation of a thousands year old tradition.*
Nothing nebbish about that, not bad for a music video, and not bad for the Jews. Let’s see Jay-Z and Kanye top that.
*Also, Lil Wayne is wearing a panda mask.