Making Jewish Music Fun

Jewish a capella group The Maccabeats visits Israel for Bnei Akiva annual conference, after a Chanukah hit with major success on YouTube.

Elad Benari and Yoni Kempinski, | updated: 05:18

Maccabeats PR

The Maccabeats, an all-male a capella group which started at Yeshiva University, arrived in Israel to take part in the World Bnei Akiva annual conference. Israel National News TV’s Yoni Kempinski met them preparing for the big concert.

Band member Immanuel Shalev said: “We’ve actually been performing for four years now. We got together because the power of more than one voice together is so much greater than the power of a voice alone.”

The Maccabeats released their first album in March 2010, and last November they released 'Candlelight,' a Chanukah themed video produced which garnered international attention and was covered by all the major news sources. The song became very popular on YouTube, with more than four million people having watched the clip.

“One thing I think is just amazing is the sort of sounds that can be reproduced by the human voice,” said band member Noey Jacobson who spoke of the band’s unique a capella sound. “You hear a synthesizer on our song ‘Candlelight,’ but really it’s just one of our guys making that sound. People don’t believe it.”

One of the band’s specialties is taking modern hits and “converting” them by giving them Jewish lyrics.

“Something that we like to do a lot is to take a song that people know and to put in Jewish content,” said Shalev. “So, for instance, for ‘Candlelight’ we took Taio Cruz’s ‘Dynamite’ and we took words that told the story of Chanukah so that people can get the message of Chanukah. Another song that we do is Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ which we do with the words of Lecha Dodi. So it’s a really powerful song but also with really powerful words.”

For the future, the band is planning to continue making music. “We’re planning another CD, but I think just in a general sense we realize now that with just a little video that took us a week to make we can reach so many people, and I think that we want to continue reaching people in whatever way we can,” said Jacobson.

Aviva Berlinger of World Bnei Akiva added that the Maccabeats were chosen to perform in the annual conference because “just like Bnei Akiva, they symbolize the connection between Torah and Avodah (worship), because they sing and they bring holiness to wherever they sing and wherever they perform, which is exactly what we’re doing.”