(JTA) — The approximately 120,000 Jews living in Brazil make up less than 1% of the country’s total population of approximately 214 million people.
But today, according to Marcio Bellora Saraceni, a 29-year-old lawyer from Rio de Janeiro, “all of Brazil knows” the name of Nissim Urfali, the bar mitzvah boy who became one of the country’s first viral memes 10 years ago.
Footage of the then 13-year-old playing video games, wrap the tefillin even on top of a whale (a nod to the so-called “Whale” beach near Sao Paulo) all gathered in this video It was originally played on the big screen at Ourfali’s bar mitzvah in 2012. Set to “What Makes You Beautiful” by British boy band One Direction, Urfali sings new songs about his Jewishness and love for his family (and Israel). ), in a very gentle way.
According to the report of “Estadao” newspaper. The family posted the video online so friends and family can access it later. Little did they know that the video would reach two million views in less than a year and explode in various spheres of Brazilian pop culture.
According to a 2020 podcast interview with Noemi Lobel, who produced the video for the Urfali family, the video became the subject of one of the top 10 tweets a few days after it was published for the first time in the world. The song soon became a favorite at house parties and nightclubs across the country.
“I remember when I was in high school when the music video first came out, my friends and I would sing it together all the time,” said Bellora Saraceni. Whenever a One Direction song is played, everyone sings Nissim’s version.
The fame extended beyond the Jewish community. “Everybody knows Nissim Urfali, Jew or not,” said Andre Lieberman, a 22-year-old law student. a progressive Jewish activist In Recife.
But with unexpected fame came obstacles – the family suffered from anti-Semitic attacks online. death threats their son’s name and Jewishness became part of the public debate.
In 2012, the family appealed to a Brazilian court to have the video removed. The court ordered Athurs Way to remove some of the videos, including the original. But two years later Wade decided he couldn’t YouTube’s owner forced Google to remove all videos mentioning Urfali — which had been copied and circulated in countless untraceable versions. The family appealed this decision and in 2016 a state court ordered Google Brasil to remove as many videos as possible. Despite this decision, video is still widely available on the Internet in various forms.
Little is known about Ourfali’s life after the astonishing 10 years of internet dominance. According to the Brazilian website Aventuras na Historia, he does not speak in public about a viral video and now has social media accounts. In 2018, right-wing influencer Arthur do Val published a photo It’s Urfali, along with right-wing MP Kim Kataguiri, who spoke on a podcast earlier this year he opposed the criminalization of Nazism in Germany. Do Val posted on his Instagram page about Ourfali and Cataguiri, saying that Ourfali praised his work.
According to the podcast Além do meme, Urfali now lives and works in the US.
During Urfali’s incredible heyday, in sweaty nightclubs dotted with neon strobe lights, Jeff Oliveira, a 34-year-old visual artist and DJ from Rio de Janeiro, played both originals and new remixes of Nissim’s songs. night course. “Every time I play Nissim’s music, people go crazy,” he said. “At first they screamed in amazement, then they sang and danced together.”
Now, however, he has moved on to new and relevant songs from Brazilian internet culture.
“I think memes should always be used at the right time,” he said. “People felt a connection from talking about Nissim to their friends, colleagues, and family all week, and the DJ played the same way over the weekend.”