Numbers aren’t everything in Hanukka YouTube war

Ein Prat Fountainheads take on heavyweight Maccabeats.

311_gay threesome (photo credit: Courtesy)
311_gay threesome
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Okay, so it’s not a real war. Call it a friendly competition. But among all the music videos, lip dubs, flash mobs and spontaneous choreography, two little Hanukka songs have taken the blogosphere by storm and shined light on the phenomenon of a Jewish YouTube.
One is a American blockbuster with nearly 2,750,000 hits. The other is a dark horse, an Israeli contender with only 10,000 visitors to call its own.
But as with our ancient brethren against the Greeks, the numbers aren’t everything.
Both videos were inspired by Mike Tompkins’s a capella version of the Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite.”
The Maccabeats, an a capella group from Yeshiva University, were the first of the two to get their song, “Candlelight,” out onto the Web. However, a group from the Ein Prat Israel Academy for Leadership in Kfar Adumim was not far behind.
The students, led by Aaron Rotenberg, Shani Lachmish and Matan Lax, came together with a simple goal – to have fun and make Hanukka a little bit brighter this year. After bouncing around a few ideas, they settled on a name and the Ein Prat Fountainheads were born. The video is a cover of the Black Eyed Peas song “I’ve Got a Feeling,” with a few appropriate changes for the festival of lights.
When asked about the Maccabeats’ song, Rotenberg said that he hadn’t taken any ideas from the US phenom.
“At first, we were just wanting to have some fun. We have so many talented people out here – artistically and music-wise.
So we wanted to come together to do a little project for Hanukka as a way of getting together to have fun, and as a way of brightening up the holiday for everybody else by putting it on the Web.”
But the song from Yeshiva University did take the wind out of their sails a little.
“When we saw their video, which, like ours, was based on ‘Dynamite’ so it looked similar in a lot of ways, we said to ourselves, ‘Oh. Well, so umm...,” Rotenberg said. “I guess it took a little bit of our thunder and little bit of originality out of what we’d been working on, without knowing that they’d been doing the same.”
Still, the Fountainheads released their video on YouTube a few days later and the blogosphere has been bursting with enthusiasm.
The story of the little Israeli video that could has already been picked up by more than a dozen Jewish sites across the Web, and shows no sign of losing steam.
“We’ve been getting calls and e-mails about it pretty much from the minute it went up congratulating us and telling us how much they liked it and asking us when the next one’s coming out or what we’re working on now,” Lax said of the viewer adulation.
The two videos are just the latest examples of a growing trend in creating Jewish-themed videos to connect to young Jews in a humorous and fun way while also getting the message out. Nefesh B’Nefesh, the organization largely in charge of promoting aliya from Western states and providing aid to new olim when they get here, has jumped on the bandwagon. To promote the idea of an active, happening Israel, Nefesh B’Nefesh has supported videos ranging from flash mobs – spontaneous groups mobbing and dancing together in public, in downtown Jerusalem – to music videos of quintessential Israeli characters driving around the country while singing about Hanukka.
Latma, an Israeli satire group that uses humor to critique politics, has been doing the same thing – publishing videos on the Web to get the word out while entertaining the masses.

Although all these videos have different goals and messages, taken together they, along with several bloggers and websites, represent the birth of a Jewish Internet, one where Jewish and Israeli ideas and issues are sent out to the world via the Web clip and the music video.
“One of the best things about doing this video,” said Lax, “was being a part of the global dialogue of Jewish videos.
Being part of that network, of something bigger than just one group or country that a bunch of students from a small school in the center of Israel can take part in and be a link in, that’s been really great for us.”
When asked if his group was going to be making another video, Rotenberg’s response came instinctively and with a smile.
“Totally, man.”