Toronto rabbi talks about being in Drake music video | JNS

If he isn’t already, Rabbi Ari Sitnik will soon be the most viewed rabbi in internet history, all because of one video.

The 52-year-old Brazilian-born Sitnik appears at the start of Drake’s new music video for his song “Falling Back,” which has already racked up more than 11,000,000 views on YouTube.

The video begins with former NBA center Tristan Thompson telling the Jewish-Canadian rapper and singer (whose real name is Aubrey Drake Graham) in a side piece that he can call off his wedding. Outside, Sitnik puts on his glasses and adjusts his tie.

Drake walks into the wedding venue and stands next to his bride-to-be. Behind her, however, stand about 22 other brides. Sitnik asks Drake, “Do you commit to being a good husband according to our values ​​and traditions?” He asks the wives the same thing – replacing the word “wife” with “husband” – then declares them married after they say “yes”.

Drake then gives rings to the brides standing behind his new bride, along with elaborate handshakes.

A still from a music video for Drake’s song “Falling Back”. Source: YouTube.

At first, Sitnik said, he didn’t know he would have a role, and added that the response to his brief appearance was positive.

The rabbi received his smicha in 1992 from Chabad headquarters in Brooklyn and studied at yeshivas in Los Angeles, California and Morristown, New Jersey. He works in IT and is not a pulpit rabbi. He got the role in Drake’s video through Stu Stone, with whom he worked on a video for the Tomchei Shabbos organization, which helps provide Sabbath meals to the needy.

“Drake could have chosen anyone for this role, and he chose a real rabbi, Sitnik said. “It was not shown in a negative way. Drake chose to connect to his Jewish roots in a positive way. Kudos to him.

While the video was shot over the weekend of May 28-29, Sitnik said the filmmakers took his observance of Shabbat into account, shooting his scene on Sunday instead of Saturday. They also organized a kosher meal for him.

Sitnik said he was particularly pleased with his role because usually, when religious Jewish men are portrayed in films, “the beard is fake and the pay is wrong.” He added that religious figures are often demonized on television and he wanted to show a more positive image.

The rabbi did not consult anyone to take the role. “Whether I should have asked another rabbi will forever be an unanswered question because I didn’t ask anyone,” he said. “I didn’t ask permission from Chabad or anyone. If someone is offended, we can have a conversation.

He said he was familiar with Drake’s work on the show “Degrassi: The Next Generation.” However, Sitnik admitted that he was not aware of any of Drake’s songs, as he is not a fan of rapping. But when a reporter sang the lyrics, “You called me on my cell phone,” something clicked and the rabbi sang.

Drake’s video wasn’t the first time Sitnik has appeared on film. He was an extra in a TV movie titled “Crown Heights” and an episode of NBC’s “Nurses” that was taken off the air due to controversy over its portrayal of religious Jews.

“All I did for myself was accompany the patient as he was moved around in a wheelchair,” Sitnik said. “The controversy was that the episode featured a Hasidic guy who had injured his leg and needed a bone or skin graft, and he didn’t want to get one because it might have come from a goyim or a woman”. So it was halakhically inaccurate and grammatically incorrect. This created an anti-Semitic tone. If he had said, “I don’t want that from a bad person,” that would be just as good for the show; still halakhically incorrect, but it wouldn’t have attracted so much negative attention. Jewish religious law does not prohibit transplants from women or non-Jews.

Sitnik said he doesn’t rap or sing. “I joke that I can make a congregation cry because of my voice, but not for singing well,” he noted.

He said if he could star in a movie with any celebrity it would be Mel Brooks because he heard that while fighting in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II Brooks set up a PA system and played a recording of Jewish music. singer Al Jolson to annoy the Germans. He also loves Brooks’ outlook on life and that his brand of comedy spares no one.

“Life is too short to be taken too seriously,” Sitnik commented.

He said he had been emcee at a wedding, but had never officiated. When asked how he met his own wife, Sitnik said, “My Chavroussa [Talmudic study partner] engaged to a friend of my wife. The two sat down and said, “I know this one” and “single-single,” so they thought of introducing us. I went from New York to Toronto, and it’s been over 26 years. He and his wife have four children.

Sitnik said that if offered more acting gigs, he would consider them, “but I’m not quitting my day job yet.”

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