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August 24, 2016 / 20 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Youtube’

The King Of Jewish YouTube: Daniel Finkelman Is Pursuing His Chabad Shlichut Through Popular Jewish Music Videos

Friday, June 10th, 2016

“My plan is to win an Academy Award by the time I’m 45,” says Daniel Finkelman, the 38-year-old director and producer of a recently shot feature film and countless short films and Jewish music videos, including Gad Elbaz’s Paris-located “Hava Nagila” and Lipa Schmeltzer’s futuristic “Hang Up the Phone.”

Go ahead. Roll your eyes. You’ve heard this before – from people far more famous and with more industry connections than Finkelman. And it’s true: Finkelman tends to make grand pronouncements like that. But spend enough time with the filmmaker and instead of dismissing him as delusional, he’ll make you not only believe it’s possible, he’ll have you rooting for him to succeed. It comes from confidence and ample talent – yes – but also from Finkelman’s striking appetite and sense of purpose.

In the specialized corner of filmmaking that creates Jewish music videos, Finkelman – who also directs and produces Jewish music concerts – has earned a reputation as a visionary. He has been creating YouTube videos full time for the past five years and has already worked with over a dozen major Jewish music including (in addition to Schmeltzer and Elbaz) Mordechai Ben David, Dudu Fisher, and Avraham Fried.

Before taking on filmmaking, Finkelman was a secular studies principal and teacher in a Chabad school. He looks at all of his work from an educator’s point of view. Now, he says, “instead of inspiring a class of 12 or 15 students, I have the ability to inspire millions of people with help from Gad Elbaz, Lipa Schmeltzer, Avraham Fried, and many others. That responsibility gives me tremendous satisfaction.”

Finkelman, who lives in Brooklyn, says he pursues his shlichut like all Chabad individuals do. But Finkelman’s shlichut is fulfilled not by by traveling via rickshaw in New Delhi, camel in Beirut, or elephant in Johannesburg. Instead he does so through his videos, which, though they display a broad range, have a core set of messages in common: of faith, simcha, and Jewish pride.

During the filming of one of these videos, the phosphorescent glow of the stage lights were dim as buzzing chatter came from dozens of costumed men, women, and children. The Soho Lounge in Brooklyn was as ethereal as it has ever been. The lounge’s brick walls and swooning musical vibes were emitting a Roaring Twenties aura. Soon, a hush blanketed the crowd. Bartenders stopped tending, DJs stopped mixing, and customers stopped mingling.

All eyes focused on the far end of the quaint room, which was brilliantly illuminated by violet, turquoise, and scarlet spotlights. A man appeared dressed casually in jeans and a t-shirt and introduced himself: “I’m Daniel Finkelman, and welcome to Lipa Schmeltzer’s music video shoot. I hope you’re all having a great time. Sit back and enjoy.” The crowd applauded then stopped as Finkelman raised his hand. Finkelman took his place behind the camera with the rest of his crew and shouted, “Action.”

Schmeltzer moved onto center stage and commanded everyone’s attention with his red sparkly vest and fashionable glasses. He belted out his newest tune, while members of the Holocaust Survivor Band accompanied him on their string instruments. Schmeltzer has become one of the top two or three performers in Jewish music, those who can manufacture a sure bet every time they step on a stage or cut a new album, and it’s no oversimplification to say that a significant chunk of his renown and reach is thanks to Finkelman. Schmelzter – and, for that matter, Gad Elbaz and others – are the talent; Finkelman is their impresario.

* * * * *

Before I met Daniel Finkelman, we had arranged for an interview at Chocolatte, a 24-hour kosher coffee shop in Crown Heights. As I wait for him, the favorite hymns of the Lubavitcher Rebbe play softly in the background and the heavenly aroma of cinnamon lattes and chocolate croissants fill the air. Soon, Finkelman saunters in, uber-confident, wearing a denim suit jacket, gray slacks, and spiffy gray lace-ups. The only thought crossing my mind is, “Never in my life have I seen a Lubavitcher with this much style.” Finkelman introduces himself – as if I didn’t know it was him – and invites me to take a seat. He is so excited to begin the interview, and acts as if a reporter has never interviewed him before. He is courteous, calm, and collected. And he’s very eager for whatever happens next.

Daniel Finkelman (left) on the set of the black-and-white music video “The Reveal.”

Daniel Finkelman (left) on the set of the black-and-white music video “The Reveal.”

Finkelman was born in Israel and moved to New York when he was 11. Unlike the case with most children, watching a film at home was no simple task for the young Daniel Finkelman. Every couple of minutes, he’d make his younger brother pause the video so that he could absorb the film quality and directorial techniques of each scene – whether he was watching in French, Russian, Hebrew, or English.

“I had bought VHS tapes through Columbia House’s mail order club,” he says. “We also went to the movie theater, but those I couldn’t pause. Right away, I was attracted to directors such as Spielberg, Scorsese, Louis Malle, and others. My parents were hard-working immigrants who didn’t have much time for films, but at least they didn’t kill my passion toward them. I watched a lot. I sometimes went into a marathon of watching four films one after the other – very geeky, but yeah, that was me.”

Finkelman’s family was not associated with Chabad at the time but they spent a Shabbat at 770 Eastern Parkway soon after their arrival. Finkelman cites the Rebbe as his muse and says the Rebbe granted him a modern day miracle.

“As a child I was extremely allergic to the sun – the pain in my eyes when in contact with the sun was excruciating,” Finkelman relates. “None of the doctors could cure me. After my Shabbat at 770 I waited on line the following Sunday to shake hands with the Rebbe in the boiling sun. When I finally met the Rebbe, I asked him for a blessing, and then in the only Yiddish I knew I told the Rebbe, ‘Zei gezint,to which he answered ‘Amen’ followed by ‘You should have hatzlacha with everything in your life,’ and a few weeks later my eyesight was completely restored and my allergy was gone; it was a miracle.”

Finkelman says he was also drawn to the Chabad philosophy of letchatchila ariber: “While some people live life by accomplishing their goals step-by-step, Chabad shoots straight to the top,” he says. “That, in particular, appeals to me. Straight to the top is my motto. Straight to the top in my marriage and straight to the top with career choices. I didn’t want to wake up when I’m 75 and go, ‘Oh, I could’ve done that.’ Now is the time to jump in the waters and be a Nachshon ben Aminadav and just do it. That is why my goal is an Academy Award. I don’t think that it’s a far off dream.”

Finkelman first thought seriously about using his filmmaking for religious ends five years ago. Sholom Rubashkin’s imprisonment had been sitting on his mind and the more he heard about the allegations against Rubashkin, the more he wanted to get involved. He called Mordechai Ben David and set in motion the “Unity for Justice” music video. “The thing that tugs at my heartstrings most,” says Finkelman, “is that Jews from so many communities, from Syrians to Sephardim to Chabad to Modern Orthodox, found a common denominator, and his name is Rubashkin. It’s as if he sits in prison so that the Jewish people can unite.”

Wanting to infuse his projects with a sense of mission has led Finkelman to work alongside Meyer Seewald, founder of the victim advocate group Jewish Community Watch, which helps protect children from sexual abuse and helps victims heal from their traumas. Finkelman calls Seewald “a living saint.” Together they filmed the video “Speak Up” in which seven survivors of sexual abuse shared their stories.

“I respect Daniel and love him like a brother,” says Seewald. “He is an advocate for victims, and in every interview that he has had with them, they feel supported and loved. He speaks to them gently, and supports them even after the video is through. Daniel is never satisfied with just that, he always wants to do more, and has amazing ideas to spread awareness on the subject. With his help we will continue bringing awareness to the community, and help more victims become survivors.”

Working with sexual abuse victims does not come without its share of detractors within the community, but Finkelman generally shrugs off those concerns. For example, the video for the Schmeltzer song “Believe in a Miracle” includes women, which elicited the virtual wrath of many a commenter; they fumed that parading women in an Orthodox music video is both inappropriate and un-Jewish. This made Finkelman livid. “If we’re going to make a revolution,” he tell me, “even a small one, it needs to be heard. I think it’s a disaster that women are not in videos or pictures of Jewish sources. Maybe Lipa’s videos will promote change.”

Finkelman’s sense of mission extends to videos combating anti-Semitism. One of his most popular is “Hava Nagila,” featuring Israeli artist Gad Elbaz. “Hava Nagila” was shot in Paris after the January 2015 massacres at Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket but before the November attacks which took the lives of 130 in the city.

Finkelman has worked with Elbaz for many years and has created popular music videos for Elbaz’s songs, like “Esh Shel Mashiach” (over 800,000 YouTube views), “Open Up” (a million YouTube views), and “Hashem Melech 2.0” (nearly 1.3 million YouTube views). A recurring element in these videos is impeccable choreography and, often, jazzed-up dance routines, which Finkelman feels can help attract younger Jewish viewers.

“Who’s our target audience? Not only the unaffiliated, it’s also the affiliated,” he says. “They’re not interested in Jewish music, to see some gray-bearded guy jump and say ‘oyoyoyoyoyoy.’ It doesn’t inspire. It doesn’t inspire me. But if you give them something like Gad Elbaz, some good dancing, and it’s like ‘Oh wow; this is good.’ This is almost just as good. It’s good beats, good choreography, and some window of communication with the youth. When I say youth I mean all of us. I’m also youth. I’m also not inspired by the gray-bearded people (except maybe Avraham Fried). I can’t stand going to these concerts where the artist has zero charisma. We’ve changed that.”

Finkelman is especially proud of his Holocaust-related film work. He started exploring Holocaust cinematography when he began working with producer and composer Cecelia Margules, the daughter of Holocaust survivors who’s been promoting Holocaust education for decades. He says, “Ever since she came into my life, I’ve been bringing it to YouTube, and to the masses. These videos unite Jews on a global scale and it allows me to combine my love for Judaism with my love for filmmaking.”

Ever mindful of looking forward toward future Jewish generations, Finkelman says he plans to create online platforms catering to Jewish youth. “We want people to answer the commonly asked question ‘What makes you Jewish?’ Thousands of Jewish individuals worldwide will take minute-long video clips of what makes them feel connected to Judaism. For some, being Jewish is through feeling connected. For others, it’s eating lox. For still others, it’s watching Woody Allen movies. Everyone has their own concept.”

Once he’s gathered enough videos, he plans to showcase them online, hoping they can represent a kind of cumulative snapshot of what Judaism means to Jews worldwide. He’s dubbed the project “We R 1.”

Molly Meisels

Report: J-Street Received More Than $500,000 to Promote Obama’s Iran Deal

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

The far-left J-Street lobby, which calls itself a “pro-peace” and “pro-Israel” organization, received $576,500 dollars last year to push the Obama Administration’s Iran deal, via the Ploughshares Fund, according to an AP report.

The Ploughshares Fund, one of the main groups named by the Obama administration’s spin doctor Ben Rhodes, set its sights on other media organizations in its campaign too. Their goal, according to Rhodes was to set up an echo chamber of pro-Iran messages bouncing back and forth between different organizations and individuals.

For instance, utilizing the services of the GMMB.com ad agency, the Ploughshares Fund attempted to directly reach politically active US Jews via online advertising on Israeli and Jewish websites, with a budget in the tens of thousands of dollars.

I’m looking to run on local Jewish community sites in PA, NY, MD or run on Jewish sites that can geo-target to these states.
More information below –
Timing: Sept 5th – September 18th
Goal: Completed video views and traffic to landing page
Geo: PA, NY, MD
Budget: $5- $40k
Target: Jewish people (preferably politically active)

GMMB was particularly interested in advertising on JewishPress.com, which did not run their ads. They were even willing to prepay for their campaign.

Two other sites GMMB expressed interested in advertising on were the Times of Israel and the JPost.com.

Banner ads that ran in the various newspapers and websites appeared to be from different organizations, which then led to different pro-Iran Deal websites and YouTube channels.

The Times of Israel ran ads for an organization called “No Nukes for Iran Project“, which of course supported the Iran deal.

Ads were also run on Google.

But the underlying account name from the back-end ad server sent to JewishPress.com said “Ploughshare Fund”.

Ploughshare Fund account information for the pro-Iran deal campaign to run on Jewish websites.

Ploughshares Fund account information for the pro-Iran deal campaign to run on Jewish websites.

One such YouTube channel heavily featured Peter Beinart calling for viewers to #DefendTheDeal, under the name “Iran Deal Forum”.

"The Iran Deal Forum" promoting the Iran Deal with Peter Beinart videos.

“The Iran Deal Forum” promoting the Iran Deal with Peter Beinart videos.

The Associated Press explored the 2015 Annual Report of the Ploughshares Fund, a fund mentioned in the expose/profile of Rhodes published last week by The New York Times.

In that profile, Rhodes boasted about the main groups responsible for helping to create the “echo chamber” that promoted the Iran deal despite facts that contradicted the hype.

A fact sheet distributed this weekend by The Israel Project (TIP) managing director Omri Ceren noted The Ploughshares Fund is a donation hub that has distributed millions of dollars in recent years to groups pushing the Iran deal.

After Congress failed to defeat the deal, Ploughshares President Joseph Cirincione published a video and letter boasting about how the echo chamber – over 85 groups and 200 people – was created with Ploughshares money: “groups and individuals were decisive in the battle for public opinion and as independent validators… they lacked a common platform – a network to exchange information and coordinate efforts.

Ploughshares Fund provided that network… we built a network of over 85 organizations and 200 individuals… We credit this model of philanthropy – facilitating collective action through high-impact grantmaking – with creating the conditions necessary for supporters of the Iran agreement to beat the political odds” Cirincione said.

The Ploughshares Fund gave National Public Radio $100,000 last year towards the mission to report on the Iran deal, funding reports on related issues and NPR’s annual report. According to the mission statement of the NGO, its primary raison d’etre is to “build a safe, secure world by developing and investing in initiatives to reduce and ultimately eliminate the world’s nuclear stockpiles.”

But it was that NGO and others who were used by the White House to carry out what amounted to a deliberate propaganda campaign to mislead the American people.

In its probe of the 2015 Annual Report of the Ploughshares Fund, the Associated Press broke down into three kinds of groups, the network of 85 organizations and 200 individuals funded by the NGO:

— Journalists and media outlets:

Ploughshares has funded NPR‘s coverage of national security since 2005, the radio station said. Ploughshares reports show at least $700,000 in funding over that time. All grant descriptions since 2010 specifically mention Iran… Previous efforts… Ploughshares has set its sights on other media organizations, too. In a “Cultural Strategy Report” on its website, the group outlined a broader objective of “ensuring regular and accurate coverage of nuclear issues in reputable and strategic media outlets” such as The Guardian, Salon, the Huffington Post or Pro Publica. Previous efforts failed to generate enough coverage, it noted. These included “funding of reporters at The Nation and Mother Jones and a partnership with The Center for Public Integrity to create a national security desk.”

— Think tanks and nuclear-issues associations:

The 33-page document lists the groups that Ploughshares funded last year to advance its nonproliferation agenda. The Arms Control Association got $282,500; the Brookings Institution, $225,000; and the Atlantic Council, $182,500… Princeton University got $70,000 to support former Iranian ambassador and nuclear spokesman Seyed Hossein Mousavian’s “analysis, publications and policymaker engagement on the range of elements involved with the negotiated settlement of Iran’s nuclear program.”

— Lobbies:

Other groups, less directly defined by their independent nuclear expertise, also secured grants. J-Street, the liberal Jewish political action group, received $576,500 to advocate for the deal. More than $281,000 went to the National Iranian American Council.

Hana Levi Julian

French Jewish Students Sue Facebook, Twitter, YouTube

Monday, May 16th, 2016

The Union of Jewish Students of France (UEJF) and SOS-Racisme, on Sunday filed a lawsuit against the three social networks Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for failing to delete content deemed racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic or pro-terrorism, as required by French law, The Local reported.

The two groups cited a survey carried out between March 31 and May 10 by their own members together with a third association, SOS Homophobie.

In this “first mass test of social networks,” the three groups discovered 586 instances of content they deemed “racist, anti-Semitic, Holocaust denying, homophobic, or defending terrorism or crimes against humanity,” the two groups said in a joint statement.

Only a small percentage of these postings was deleted by the host network within a “reasonable time,” as required under a 2004 French law: 4% on Twitter, 7% on YouTube and 34% on Facebook.

“It’s a mystery whether the moderating teams in social media are actually working,” said UEJF president Sacha Reingewirtz,.

Dominique Sopo, head of SOS-Racisme, said the social media giants are being hypocritical: “These platforms seem more shocked about content with bare breasts, which is swiftly censored, than about incitement to hatred,” she said, adding, “Our legal step aims at getting the authorities to apply the law so that these organization submit to it in full.”

According to The Local, the suit has been filed under an article of the French legal code which requires a judge to issue a fast-track preliminary ruling in a complaint.

David Israel

Jewish Group Condemns German YouTube’s Neo-Nazi Videos

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Philipp Justus, managing director of the German unit of YouTub’s parent company Google, on Monday received a letter from the World Jewish Congress (WJC), demanding he remove illegal material praising Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust. In the letter, released by news agencies, WJC Executive Vice President Robert Singer is asking, “Why is it that Google steadfastly refuses to take action against the proliferation of racist and anti-Semitic material on its platforms? Do you really believe that songs glorifying or inciting the mass murder of Jews fall under freedom of speech?”

Singer highlighted one exceptionally revolting song among many nasty numbers, “In Belsen,” by the neo-Nazi group Kommando Freisler, whose members received suspended jail terms in 2009 for inciting racial hatred. According to Singer, the despicable song is “widely available” on YouTube despite its banning in Germany.

In September, the director of the memorial at the former Bergen-Belsen concentration camp Jens-Christian Wagner already asked YouTube to remove “In Belsen.” Wagner’s letter received no response, until last Saturday, when Germany’s biggest daily newspaper, Bild, reported it, and then most versions of the song were deleted from YouTube. But dozens of equally hateful Kommando Freisler and other neo-Nazi bands’ songs are still available online in “thousands of clips,” according to WJC spokesman Michael Thaidigsmann.

“It is obvious that Google/YouTube does not seriously deal with this matter, that it lacks any proactive attitude, and that even when offensive posts are being flagged, it is very slow to remove the incriminating files from its service,” Thaidigsmann said, adding bitterly, “If I post something from Adele or Taylor Swift, you can bet it’ll be gone in a few hours.”

A spokesman for YouTube’s German unit told AFP his employers have “clear guidelines to ban hate speech against certain groups or content that incites racial hatred. We remove all videos that violate these guidelines as soon as they are reported. That also applies to banned right-wing extremist music.”

And so it appears the problem lies either with the anti-hate guidelines or with the German YouTube employees who are supposed to follow them.

JNi.Media

YouTube Reinstates Cancelled PMW Account

Monday, March 7th, 2016

The video sharing YouTube service has quietly reinstated the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) watchdog account.

Without fanfare or announcement, the PMW videos that expose Palestinian Authority media incitement against Israel and Jews have been reinstated to the site.

The video sharing site suspended the media watchdog’s account last Thursday for allegedly violating its “terms of service” by exposing the violent incitement broadcast on Palestinian Authority TV.

Jewish Press News Briefs

YouTube Aborts Media Site for ‘Incitement’ for Exposing Arab Incitement

Monday, March 7th, 2016

It is hard to argue with YouTube for shutting down an account that featured a small girl reading a poem on a government channel which calls for “war that will smash” a legitimate government.

Except when exposure of that incitement is what gets shut down, which will lead to more incitement, not less.

Which is what happened late last week.

On Thursday, March 3, YouTube terminated the account of Palestinian Media Watch. PMW was shut down after it released a video of a Palestinian Arab girl reading a poem on official Palestinian Authority television glorifying the brutal murder of Israelis and the end of the Jewish State.

The PMW video showed a young girl named Minas, who is roughly  eight years old, on the Palestinian Authority television program, “Children’s Talk.”

The host of the program asks Minas to recite a poem, and Minas responds that she will recite the poem, “I am a Palestinian.” And this is what she recites:

All my Arabness calls me to vengeance and liberation… Thousands of prisoners… say: To Jerusalem, the [first] direction of prayer in the faith [Islam] To war that will smash the oppressor and destroy the Zionist’s soul and raise the Palestinian banner in the world’s sky and strengthen my word that goes on: Palestinian, Palestinian, Palestinian.

When Minas concludes her poem, the program host tells her she is “superb” and “very talented.”

YouTube justified terminating PMW’s account for “violating their ‘terms of service,’ which includes hate speech.”

In other words, PMW’s YouTube account was shut down as if it was PMW that was urging a “war that will smash the oppressor and destroy the Zionist’s soul.” What PMW actually did was to expose this promotion of violence and murder and a grotesque form of child abuse committed by the Palestinian Authority, which was responsible for the television segment.

Rather than stopping the incitement, YouTube’s action enabled the incitement by shutting down the whistle-blower.

As the result of this wrongheaded action by YouTube, nearly all of PMW’s dozens and dozens of videos – the result of many months of work – have been shut down.

People have begun responding to YouTube, asking it to reinstate PMW’s account by clicking the “send feedback” link at the very bottom (scroll all the way down) of YouTube’s homepage.

As Palestinian Media Watch pointed out, parliaments and governments the world over use PMW’s exposure of Palestinian Arab incitement and hate speech. “On Friday, a 25-minute debate took place in Swedish Parliament in which the PA’s support for the current terror was discussed, and the proof was based entirely on PMW documentation – most of which is no longer available,” thanks to YouTube’s action.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Google Denies Reaching Anti-Incitement Agreement with Israeli FM

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

(JNi.media) Google denied a report from Israel’s foreign ministry regarding an agreement to monitor YouTube videos to prevent messages that incite attacks. A Google spokesman told AFP that Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) had, indeed, met with Google’s senior counsel for public policy, Juniper Downs, and YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki, but the meeting was just “one of many that we have with policymakers from different countries to explain our policies on controversial content, flagging and removals.” When Google discovered the inaccurate statement on the Foreign Ministry’s website, they contacted the ministry which “has corrected its original announcement which, in error, suggested there had been an agreement with Google to establish a mechanism to monitor online materials.”

The Foreign Ministry’s Nov. 24 statement has since been altered, and it now reads: “As part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ campaign against online incitement, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely met with Youtube CEO Susan Wojcicki and with Jennifer Downes, Director of Public Policy at Google at the company’s Silicon Valley offices.

“Deputy Minister Hotovely was briefed on the companies’ system for identifying video clips which incite to violence.

“In the meetings, Hotovely raised the problem of incitement which goads small children to go out and stab innocents: ‘The daily stabbings in Israel are a result of young boys and girls who are indoctrinated from an early age in the Palestinian education system and through social media. We are engaged daily in confronting incitement to violence, a task which can benefit greatly from the cooperation of those companies that are involved in social media.’”

Foreign ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon confirmed the release was corrected, saying Israel was nevertheless “extremely grateful for the good relations with Google. Our common objective is to remove dangerous incitement to violence on social media. We have full confidence in the Google teams dealing with this removal.”

JNi.Media

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/google-denies-reaching-anti-incitement-agreement-with-israeli-fm/2015/12/01/

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