The Maccabeats acapella singing group is teaming up with Jewish-American actress Mayim Bialik for a bone marrow drive. The group's new song and video is a cover of Matisyahu's "Miracle", a Hanukkah themed song. Noah Jacobson, one of the members of the group, spoke to Israel National Radio's Israel Beat Jewish Music Podcast about the project.
"We'd like to think we popularized, if not started, a new genre called the Jewish Music Video Parody Genre," says Jacobson, a 21-year-old student at Yeshiva University in New York. "Last Hanukkah, there were only about three videos. Now you fast forward one year and there are 8 or 9. They all follow the Jewish parody type of idea."
But for this year, the band decided to depart from the parody idea and cover Miracle, a modern pop song released last year by Jewish-American musician Matisyahu.
Last year, the video Candlelight, a Hanukkah themed cover version of Dynamite by Taio Cruz earned the Maccabeats millions of hits on the internet, making them overnight sensations.
Now the Maccabeats are using their fame to promote a bone marrow drive for the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation. At first, the band wanted to provide cotton swabs at their concerts for the audience to be tested to become potential bone marrow donors.
"You just swab your cheek. It take 5 seconds," says Jacobson. "They run a test to see if you can give a bone marrow transplant to a cancer patient." But each swab costs money to process. So the band decided to host a fundraiser for the project.
Joining them is actress Mayim Bialik, known for her role in the current hit TV show The Big Bang Theory. She was also the star of the 1980's sitcom Blossom. Bialik is featured in the Maccabeats' new video and winners of a raffle can win promotional material from the Big Bang Theory, back stage passes to a Maccabeats concert and other prizes. The goal is to raise $80,000 by the end of Hanukkah.
"We had a relationship with her beforehand. She's come to our concerts and she took us to the set of her TV show. She's very cool."
So what does Matisyahu think of the Maccabeats cover of his song? "We have a good relationship with him," noted Jacobson. "He liked it very much. He posted it to his Twitter. We take that as approval."
In term of musical style, Jacobson says that he doesn't think the Maccabeats and Matisyahu are in the same genre, but says they are similar in other respects.
"We make music that appeals to Jewish people in a modern way. The ancient traditional ideas being communicated through a more modern medium. we have a kinship with him in that sense."
As far as Matisyahu's public announcement last week that he had shaved off his beard, Jacobson says, "our only comment is that we are incredibly supportive of him and we are not jumping to any conclusions. We don't know necessarily what his reasons are, but we support his personal journey and we wish him 100 percent in everything that he does."
Regardless, the song "Miracle", both the original Matisyahu version and the new Maccabeats version, is gaining in popularity.
"We didn't have to change the words at all," Jacobson comments."We thought we would be ahead of the curve because it's not about latkes and dreidels, but meaningful in its own right."
"We don't take ourselves too seriously," says Jacobson. "The main message in the video is that we can be normal college kids who are proud to be Jewish.