Thursday, April 14, 2011

Is the Shema the secret behind Justin Bieber's success?

The 16-year-old pop phenomenon that is Justin Bieber (pronounced "beeber" in Israel, for some unknown reason) performed at Park HaYarkon in Tel Aviv on Thursday night, in a concert that drew 35,000 fans. This week Bieber toured Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with his family, although not entirely without incident. During the week Bieber tweeted his frustration over paparazzi who reportedly disturbed his tour of the Old City. Bieber also failed to dodge politics when his organizers refused a meeting with children of Sderot, leading to a cancellation of the proposed Bibi-Bieber summit.

What not everyone knows about Justin Bieber is the Jewish eye for talent beyond his success, and the inspiration his close Jewish friend and manager, Scooter Brown, has on the young star. Brown, 28, is from a Conservative Jewish family and has been to Israel many times. The following is an excerpt from an interview with Brown from the Jewish newspaper Yediot Aharonot (via isRealli):
What was the moment that you understood Bieber was what you were looking for?

I’m a big fan of Michael Jackson, the only thing I regret is that I never had the chance to meet him. I worked for a record company and had a concept of who is going to be the next superstar: I thought the next big thing would be a child with a young voice who sings songs about love that adults could also enjoy since he would be someone who makes great music. I saw Justin on YouTube when he was 12 and I was really impressed. I just had to find him. I googled him and played the role of a detective until I ended up with the phone number of his mother in Canada. I succeeded in convincing her that they should come to Atlanta. That was their first time on an airplane. The rest is history that we are still writing.
Yes. I believe Justin could be much bigger than he is right now. It’s all up to him. He plays lots of instruments. He sings amazingly, he dances great. Will Smith said that there’s talent and then you have skills. Talent you’ve been given, skills you need to work on. And if Justin keeps working hard on his skills, he will be big in a way we haven’t seen. The biggest.
Also, I have to tell you, the thing that children from Israel will most want to hear: Justin prays the “Shema” before each show. First he says a Christian prayer, then he says the “Shema” (The “Shema” is a Jewish prayer, proclaiming the oneness of God).
Because I am Jewish, and it’s really important to me. I always say the Shema. Justin and I are like blood brothers, we are a real family. Justin heard me pray, he gets why I do it and now he does the same prayer every time before he goes on the stage.
Do you keep the commandments?
I’m trying. I never had a cheeseburger and I’ve never had bacon, but I have a tattoo which is kind of against the rules.

As to Bieber's decision to perform in Israel despite pressure by heavy pressure by Arab groups on performers not to do so, Brown said the following:
I want to say it loud and clear, I’m proud to be Jewish and to support Israel. I know many people in the industry aren’t saying it at this period of time. Members of my family are Holocaust survivors and without the State of Israel and the United States of America, I couldn’t be safe and secure. They say that some American Jews are weak and scared to say things, [but I wanted to say that] we will come to Israel to perform next year. I want to support Israel. I don’t have a problem performing anywhere in the world.
For more on Bieber's Israel show see here.

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