Braun and brains behind Bieber

Scooter Braun, talent manager to Justin Bieber, strikes back against those who criticized the pop star’s Anne Frank House visit, saying the reaction was "atrocious and insulting."

Scooter Braun and Justin Bieber 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Scooter Braun and Justin Bieber 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
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 world?
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 your character?
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.
She was 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.
Being from generations of Holocaust survivors is a very different experience than a normal upbringing.
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 frivolous.
Was that the negative or was the negative that the 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 of questions.
It was very personal for him because of how close he is to my grandmother.
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 connection.
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 own.
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?
I 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 multiple times.
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.