Arts & Culture
Justin Bieber’s Jewish Father Figure Tells All
We get a lot of interesting e-mails at Jewcy–from Nazis threatening us to Jews for Jesus trying to convert us–but getting e-mails asking us if we’d like to interview Justin Bieber’s Jewish manager, Scooter Braun, takes the cake. Read More
We get a lot of interesting e-mails at Jewcy–from Nazis threatening us to Jews for Jesus trying to convert us–but getting e-mails asking us if we’d like to interview Justin Bieber’s Jewish manager, Scooter Braun, takes the cake.
We weren’t sure why we were solicited until we remembered that Bieber has a movie coming out, and that maybe they wanted to cover all the bases, including the Jewish ones.
We were given the two options of either interviewing Mr. Scooter, or using a pre-written essay about him. Here is what we learned from that essay:
1. Scooter is a 29-year-old “father figure” to Justin Bieber.
2. Scooter discovered Justin while watching videos on Youtube. That is like finding a pot of gold in ten tons of horse doo-doo.
3. Scooter’s grandparents are holocaust survivors.
4. The essay quotes both the Talmud and Rudyard Kipling.
We’re sure Scooter is a nice guy and has tons of intelligent things to say in an interview, but we decided to go with the pre-written essay that you can read totally unedited, below. (Thanks to VJ Life for sending this to us)
Fairy Tale or Imminent Doom: Justin Bieber and His Very Jewish Manager
What do you get when you mix Hard Days Night, Thriller, Youtube and Temple Beth Shalom?
Whatever Scooter Braun would have done in life, he would have been a proud, active, committed Jew. Today, at age 29, Mr. Braun is a major force in the entertainment industry and the man who both discovered, and manages, teen mega-star Justin Bieber. In case you have missed the virtually unprecedented rise of Justin Beiber, the story goes something like this: In 2008, Mr. Braun came across some amateur music videos on youtube featuring a fourteen year-old singer named Justin Bieber. It was clear to Scooter that the kid had talent, great talent. Scooter Braun forged a close relationship with Bieber and his mother, became his manager, and within two years nearly half the girls on the planet had a crush on Justin. Today, Justin Bieber is the most searched for celebrity on the internet, just one of his youtube music videos has had over 400 million views and Never Say Never, a film about his 2010 concert tour will be released on February 11th.
Recently, I attended a pre-release screening of Never Say Never. I was expecting a trite, cliché, teeny-bopper movie—not exactly my kind of film—and I left with two impressions. First, I was pleasantly surprised and saw how some people could even be inspired by it’s message of never say never to your dreams. At the same time, the film was quite troubling. As a parent, what I saw was a manager, Scooter Braun, Justin’s mother, and a hand full of others who were at worst exploiting a helpless child, and at best naively feeding a sixteen-year-old kid to the wolves. Let’s be honest, we’ve seen stories like this before, and it’s not hard to envision a brutal ending captured in articles beginning with words like, “Justin Bieber, former teen idol, overdoses during yet another relapse …” or, “Once the heartthrob of millions of girls, Justin Bieber and his third wife recently separated after just four months of marriage …” or, “Scooter Braun, former manager and father figure to Justin Bieber, is accused of hiding millions in revenue due to Mr. Bieber and his mother …”
And so, in a recent conversation with Scooter Braun, there was one issue that was upper most in my mind: I wanted to know how Scooter Braun, as a virtual father figure and perhaps the most influential person in this kids life, could not be blinded by what Justin represents professionally and financially. More importantly, what he is doing to make sure that Justin Bieber, who was an innocent thirteen-year-old when the two first met, doesn’t become the next Lindsey Lohan, Corey Haim or Michael Jackson?”
I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by what Scooter (or Shmuel ben Eliezer as he introduced himself to me), had to say. “Look,” Scooter said, “while this is a very complicated matter that I take very seriously, in many ways it comes down to this; with 20,000 people a night telling you that you are the greatest thing on earth, you better be very clear that there is something far more significant above you. Without that awareness, there is no chance of staying grounded.” Having said that, Scooter pointed out something that appears at the end of the film that I didn’t catch. At every concert, just before going on stage, Justin, his mom Pattie who is born again Christian, and a close circle of friends join together in prayer. And what about Scooter the Jew? Well, he taught this inner circle the Shema, which is how every prayer circle concludes.
Scooter Braun was raised in a kosher home, two of his grandparents survived Auschwitz and Dachau and he spent summers at Camp Ramah including a six-week trip to Israel. Jewish life and Jewish values are very important to Scooter and clearly not something that he keeps in the background. He grew up in a close knit Jewish family and this foundation of the importance and centrality of family is what he says is front-and- center in his relationship to Justin. After discovering Bieber, Scooter’s mom told him that this was not just another client and that he was taking responsibility for the life of a young person. He seems to have taken those words to heart. In Braun’s words, “It’s about the relationship.” He told Justin that he would never leave him and that this is a relationship for life, whether success and stardom are there or not. Rule number one, Scooter says, is that there can’t be anyone working on Justin’s team who doesn’t have a good heart. As an example, Justin’s bodyguard Kenny Hamilton and Scooter were friends for nine years before they started working together. Scooter knew whoever was guarding Justin would be around him all the time and he wanted a person whose quality of character he deeply trusted. Justin Bieber has a very close relationship with his mother and a good relationship with his dad. Scooter is in regular conversation with them about the gamut of parenting issues—school, friends, adolesence, setting limits, religion, and all the rest. While many performing artists have backed out of concerts in Israel, on April 14th, for better or worse, Bieber fever will hit Tel Aviv, and a few days later, just to keep things in perspective, Scooter and Justin will sit down to a long evening that will begin with the words, “Why is this night different from all other nights?”
The Talmud says that as difficult as poverty is, wealth is actually a greater test. Justin Bieber, and along with him, his mom and Scooter Braun, are well on their way to great wealth, enormous fame, and substantial cultural clout. A very heady mix and a mighty test indeed. Scooter Braun seems to understand that to come out on top in the ways that truly count, he will need to remain forever rooted in the bedrock of his religious heritage, and to never lose sight of the Rudyard Kipling poem If, that holds a special place in his heart.
If you can dream, and not make dreams your master … If you can walk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with kings—nor lose your common touch … If all men count with you, but none too much …
Yours is the earth and everything that’s in it, And—which is more—you’ll be a man my son.