The Shmooze

A Brazilian Bar Mitzvah Video Goes Viral

By Andrea Palatnik

  • Print
  • Share Share

Forget about the religious ceremony: A bar or bat mitzvah is an opportunity for the family to show off its riches, with lavish parties in fancy hotels and enough food to feed a small town. Right?

Well, at least that’s how I remember it, growing up in Rio in the 1990’s.

Every weekend there would be two or three bar mitzvahs, and parents who knew each other too well in such a small community (composed of mostly Ashkenazi Reform Jews) would ostentatiously compete to see who could serve the most expensive champagne; who could hire the most popular band; who could book the swankiest venue.

Then, in those years before the mass adoption of digital photography and video, bar and bat mitzvah parties began to feature a usually embarrassing tradition (for the boy or girl): A “surprise” slideshow for all guests to see, right before dinner was served, featuring embarrassing childhood pictures. There would be those classic shots of you as a naked baby trying to lick your own feet and of you as a toddler during a potty training session; or a photo of your mom with a weird hairdo from the 80’s holding you as you blow the candles on your first birthday cake. But that was about it, and everybody marveled at the time at the corny PowerPoint effects.

Being far from bar and bat mitzvah parties (and from Rio for that matter) for a while, I was surprised last week when my Facebook timeline got crammed with multiple posts linking to a video from Brazil named “Nissim Ourfali’s Bar Mitzvah.” Who was this kid and why was there a video — of his bar mitzvah, I presumed — trending like crazy on social media?

Well, it turns out that the slideshow tradition in bar and bat mitzvahs has evolved to the point where families now hire a video production company to put together a short “video clip” of the kid, lip synching to some teen pop hit parody in which he talks about his life.

And that’s what Nissim Ourfali, an upper middle class Sephardic boy from Sao Paulo, does in his video — which is almost up to three million hits on YouTube.

Visibly shy, Nissim appears in the three minute video singing a parody version of “What makes you beautiful,” by British boy band One Direction, gesticulating with his skinny arms and hands and dancing. “Eu sou o Nissim Ourfali” (“I am Nissim Ourfali”) replaced the chorus (“what makes you beautiful”) and is repeated a dozen times during the song. Behind him flows a sequence of photomontages of him, his parents and siblings and photos of the family’s trips around the world.

One Direction, “What Makes You Beautiful”

The video has been mocked in every possible way, while dozens of covers, memes and animated gifs have been created and spread across the web. There’s even a Tumblr where people can upload their own version of the most infamous moment of the video, when Nissim sings “The best part is when we go to the whale” — meaning the Whale Beach (Praia da Baleia), in Sao Paulo’s northern coast — and a surreal montage of the boy on top of a killer whale appears.

Noemy Lobel, the video producer hired by Nissim’s parents, told a Brazilian newspaper that the family is “in shock” over the video’s reception, and decided to take down the original YouTube video. Nissim, however, is not suffering any kind of bullying at school — his friends “loved” the video, said Lobel.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Brazil, Nissim Ourfali, Rio, bar mitzvah

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.