Scooter Braun, 31, has an uncanny ability to see potential in others. After all,
he discovered then-13-year-old Justin Bieber via a YouTube video in 2008,
signing him to his talent agency and steering him to become a global phenomenon
who has sold 15 million albums.
Though managing Bieber, 19, could be more
than a full-time job, Braun – who has a joint record label with recording artist
Usher – also signed South Korean rapper Psy, whose video for “Gangnam Style”
became the most viewed on YouTube in its history.
Braun also represents
Carly Rae Jepsen, whose song ”Call Me Maybe” was the best-selling single of 2012
and named ‘Song of the Year’ by MTV.
Braun is the most hands-on with
Bieber, both on and off stage. He is credited with beginning a backstage
tradition for Bieber of saying the Shema before concerts, and brought the teen
heartthrob to play a concert in Tel Aviv in 2011.
Braun, the grandchild
of Holocaust survivors, also organized Bieber’s well-publicized visit to the
Anne Frank House in Amsterdam last month. In an interview with The Jerusalem
Post last week just hours after he landed in South Africa, where Bieber was
scheduled to perform a sold-out concert for 90,000 fans, Braun took on both
tabloids for criticizing the Anne Frank House visit and Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu for attempting to politicize Bieber’s 2011 stay in Israel.Does
it feel strange to be included on a list of the most influential Jews in the
It’s incredibly flattering, I’m honored and it’s very weird. A lot of
people can argue whether I deserve to be on this list, and no one argues better
than Jews.Many Jews in the entertainment industry play down their
heritage and connection to Israel. You strongly identify with Judaism and
Israel. Does it bring you any flak?
I hope so. Look, I’m the grandson of two
concentration camp survivors and I’m not afraid of who I am. If someone has a
problem with it, they should bring it my way. I’m the kind of Jew that wants
people to know that my family is never going to walk to their death, ever
again.How influential were your grandparents and their past in shaping
A tremendous amount. My grandpa died when I was 14 – we were
close. His strength and his belief in who he was definitely played a big part in
my father’s and my brother’s and my life.
My grandmother is still alive,
and we actually just had dinner together last week in New York.
in Auschwitz when she was 15, and we talked about it many, many times. In fact,
she did some public speaking with me when I was in high school for the ADL
[Anti-Defamation League] – the only times she spoke publicly about her
experiences in the Holocaust were when she was with me.
generations of Holocaust survivors is a very different experience than a normal
Holocaust survivor kids feel very different and their
grandchildren feel very different. You grow up knowing stories of genocide in
your own family told by someone that you love very much. It has a profound
effect on who you are.
My great grandmother, before she passed, made me
learn one thing in Yiddish. “Ich bin Yiddishe ingeleh – I am a Jewish child.”
That way I always knew who I was.Justin’s visit to the Anne Frank House
created both some negative and positive reactions, the positive being that it
got millions of young people to hear the name Anne Frank for possibly the first
time. Do you feel that it was beneficial?
Can I ask you a question – what was
the negative? That Justin’s comments in the book that he hoped Anne would have
been a ‘Belieber’ [the term for Bieber fans] seemed somewhat
Was that the negative or was the negative that the TMZ.com
rumor site, looking for stories on him, is leading our press, and credible
journalists are following their lead instead of their own? What I saw was a kid
who actually read The Diary of Anne Frank
and understood that she was a huge fan
of pop culture.
And when he went through the museum – which takes about
20 minutes to go through – he spent an hour and a half in it, and he asked a ton
It was very personal for him because of how close he is to
Being one of the biggest pop stars in the world, he was
shown by the guide the wall covered with pop stars of her time and the guide
commented, “you know, maybe Anne Frank would have been a fan of yours.” And he
took that to heart.
He felt a personal connection to her, which is the
same exact experience they ask you to have when you go to the Holocaust Museum
in Washington, DC, when they hand you a card with someone’s name and face and
where they’re from – you’re supposed to try and draw a personal
What he wrote in that book reflected his personal connection
between him and Anne Frank. He wanted her to be a fan of his.
And I think
that the reaction to it was atrocious and insulting. And the fact that I haven’t
commented on it is only because I’ve been so angered – being a Holocaust
survivor’s grandson – that I found it disgusting that TMZ or any other rumor
site decided to use the Holocaust as a way to go after him, when they weren’t
even knowledgeable about it themselves.
What also bothered me was that
two days later, they put up another post that said: “Justin Bieber –
concentration or just camp?” And no one bashed them for using the Holocaust in
such a ridiculous manner.
So I don’t think there was anything negative
about what he did, only positive. And I think we have a responsibility to step
forward and defend him and say that, because that’s who we are.You
brought Justin to Israel in 2011. How involved are you in efforts to fight
cultural boycotts of the country?
Here’s something nobody knows. When we went to
Israel, Elvis Costello was boycotting it. So I talked to Justin and we decided
it was important to go. We not only went to Israel, we changed our schedule and
spent a week touring Israel to send a message.
We had plenty of death
threats from different groups over him coming to Israel. But most of the death
threats were that ‘the Jew manager will die.’ I’m not someone who’s pro-Likud or
pro-this – I’m just pro-people and I don’t feel that anyone should be
discriminated against or boycotted.
And I’m a Jew and I support my own,
but at the same time I’m going to ask for responsibility from my
Because even when we went to Israel, I was extremely disappointed at
the time by the prime minister [Netanyahu], because he tried to take advantage
of the Justin Bieber situation in a very negative way, by trying to make it
about his party.
And I got into it with them, and I’ll never forget that
one of the officials from the government said, “Look, we know this is bad, but
you know, you just have to do it, he’s the prime minister.”
And I said,
“I’m Jewish, I’m not Catholic, and he’s not the pope.”
So although I am
pro-Israel, I also expect Israel to behave responsibly.Do you think you
have a instinct for identifying talent, or have you just been lucky until now?
think it’s a combination of both. I think I could say I have an eye for
identifying talent, I could say I’m in the right place at the right time
It’s a combination of luck and the fact that these people
trust me and choose me to be involved in their journey. And I’m very fortunate
in that respect and grateful to all of them.