June 16, 2024
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June 16, 2024
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Yaakov Shwekey Honors “COVID Bar Mitzvah Boys” With New Song!

In early October, Yaakov Klugman approached his longtime friend, Yaakov Shwekey, requesting a brand new song in honor of his son Yehuda’s upcoming bar mitzvah. Renowned composer Yitzy Waldner wrote a moving song, Hamalach, which Shwekey, joined by Klugman, performed for the family and guests who gathered to celebrate Yehuda’s bar mitzvah in December.

At the end of the night, as Shwekey and Klugman reflected on the beautiful bar mitzvah, they discussed the challenges that thousands of boys across the world faced with their “corona bar mitzvahs.”

Shwekey thought back on the thousands of emails and letters he received since last March requesting personalized videos giving chizuk to boys who did not get the opportunity to celebrate their bar mitzvahs the way they had planned.

As they spoke about the unprecedented challenges that klal yisroel faced over the past year, they considered the many ways our simcha celebrations have changed. Lavish weddings were down-sized to backyard events reserved for immediate family. Simchas were celebrated “bare-bones” style- with homemade food, minimal guests, and in-house entertainment. Many should-have-been happy celebrations became bittersweet moments with the painful, obvious absence of loved ones.

And while everyone pitied the chassanim and kallos who got married in these suboptimal circumstances, bar mitzvah boys were largely overlooked. A bar mitzvah is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and it’s something boys look forward to from as young as age 5. Boys wistfully envision donning tefillin for the first time, flanked by their family and friends. They anticipate expertly leining the parsha and delivering their coveted pshetl to a crowd, dancing with their loved ones, and celebrating this huge milestone in style.

But with the spread of COVID-19 throughout our communities, disappointment replaced excited anticipation as bar mitzvah boys watched their carefully detailed plans go up in smoke. Families were left scrambling to pull together last-minute celebrations under stressful circumstances with extremely limited resources.

Boys who practiced leining their bar mitzvah parsha for a year only to be stuck at home davening b’yechidus wondered if their hard work was for nothing. Boys who diligently learned for months to make a siyum at their bar mitzvahs were devastated that no such celebration would occur.

Yet, despite the unusual circumstances, these young men took this unanticipated change of events in stride, making the most of their modified celebrations. They danced in their living rooms with their fathers as friends celebrated from 2×2 Zoom boxes, dancing in their own homes. They happily delivered “Kiddush-to-go” boxes to the few people who stopped by on shabbos to wish them mazel tov. They confidently delivered speeches to their parents and siblings with the vigor of one addressing a crowd. These boys truly rose to the occasion in incredible ways.

As Shwekey and Klugman discussed the challenges that these boys faced, an idea formed. They thought, Let’s turn the beautiful song performed tonight into a global dedication to all bar mitzvah boys to show them our support! And with this, the Hamalach campaign was born.

The goal of the campaign was to spread simcha to bar mitzvah boys across the world and to let these young men know that they are not alone; there are thousands of boys just like them who were forced to celebrate their bar mitzvahs in ways far different than they had originally planned. To personalize this message, Shwekey requested footage from bar mitzvahs celebrated amidst the pandemic.

With I and Me Media spearheading this campaign, after just a few days, thousands of pictures and videos from across the world poured in. These meaningful pictures and videos serve as a montage in the Hamalach music video.

The footage tells thousands of stories in just 5 minutes. It elicits smiles and tears alike.

Masked boys are videoed enthusiastically dancing with jump ropes, ensuring adequate social distancing…

A video camera focused on an impeccably suited bar mitzvah boy smiling alongside his brothers slowly pans out to reveal the boys’ pajama pants kept just out of the camera’s sight…

A grandfather, unable to join his grandson’s celebration, emotionally hugs and kisses a cardboard cutout of the bar mitzvah boy…

A boy proudly wearing his new hat, surrounded by his sisters dressed in beautiful gowns, holds a sign that reads, “My bar mitzvah is cancelled. Gam zu l’tovah!”…

Hamalach is an inspiring video of resilience, of how our bar mitzvah boys celebrated b’simcha despite their circumstances, embracing their less-than-ideal circumstances.

Hamalach is a heartfelt video of unity, as thousands of boys are assured in no uncertain terms that they are not alone, that klal yisroel stands with them and celebrates them in these most challenging times.

The touching music video, released just last week, deeply resonated with bar mitzvah boys around the world.

“It’s amazing what a song that’s sent from heaven can do,” Shwekey observed. “Knowing that there is a song and a message of chizuk dedicated to these boys changed their whole perception about the bar mitzvah-related challenges they faced.”

For Chaimy O., from Toronto, who celebrated his bar mitzvah last week, this video was exceptionally meaningful.

Chaimy’s grand bar mitzvah celebrations were replaced by a small get-together with his friends in his house. The talented bar mitzvah boy doubled as a one-man band and drummed for his friends after delivering an impromptu speech.

When Chaimy watched Hamalach, he felt seen and celebrated.

“When you have a bar mitzvah like the one I had, you feel like you’re the only one who is missing out. But when you watch Hamalach, you see that you are not the only person missing out, and there are others just like you,” Chaimy shared.

Shwekey was touched by the profound words and positive attitude of boys like Chaimy.

“I am writing a lot of songs now for my new album, and hearing from these boys opened up a reservoir in my mind of emotions that I never had before,” Shwekey remarked

It is our hope that Chaimy and the thousands of boys across the world who celebrated their bar mitzvahs over the past year derive chizuk from this new song, knowing that klal yisroel celebrates with them and applauds the resilience and maturity they displayed despite the challenges they faced.

May these precious young men merit to see the bracha of Hamalach come to life, and may they bring much nachas to their families and to Hashem.

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