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Friday, February 21, 2020

The Maccabeats forever changed the landscape of Jewish a cappella music and now Chanukah just wouldn’t be the same without them. Over 500 people, including several hundred enthusiastic children and tweens, packed into Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck on the second night of Chanukah to sing and dance along with their catchy tunes. This was CBY sisterhood group Bnot’s second annual Chanukah concert featuring the world-traveling, energetic and joyous singing group from Washington Heights.

The audience enjoyed the live local premiere of the Maccabeats’ newest song, “Pan Fry,” a parody of Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy.” In addition to its older and much-beloved parodies of popular radio songs such as “All About That Neis,” “Latke Recipe” and “Hasmonean, a Hamilton Hanukkah,” the group performed some of its all-time crowd favorites, including “Lecha Dodi” to the tune of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” “Yesh Tikvah,” “Despacito” and “The Purim Song.”

The last song of the concert was, as always, the parody that catapulted the Maccabeats to national and international fame: 2010’s “Candlelight,” which to date has over 15 million views on YouTube. That video garnered the Maccabeats, then still Yeshiva University students or recent graduates, invitations to national morning television shows and even got them an invite to perform at the White House. Maccabeat Julian Horowitz told the crowd that the group’s social media presence continues to rise, growing from Facebook and Twitter to Instagram, and most recently, to the video-sharing platform Tick-Tock.

With their accessible charm, clean-cut presentation, display of beautiful Jewish values promoting peace and their intrinsic joy in celebrating Jewish identity, the Maccabeats continue to connect with fans of all backgrounds and ages. Maccabeat and vocal percussionist Meir Shapiro’s “beatbox lesson” given on stage is always a highlight of each Maccabeats performance, and his parents were in the audience to applaud his considerable skills. Also sighted in the audience were Nachum Joel’s parents, and his mother, Esther, got a shout-out for contributing the original recipe upon which the song “Latke Recipe” was based.

A favorite part of every Maccabeats concert is a selfie that the Maccabeats take with the audience from the stage. Individual Maccabeats also often stand outside the concert hall greeting fans and well-wishers as the concert ends, posing for photos with their most enthusiastic and youngest demographic.

By Elizabeth Kratz