While going home from one of his college classes on Sept. 20, Dovid Pearlman noticed a string of texts on his phone. "'Check TikTok right now,'" he recalled reading. "'You gotta check TikTok. You’re blowing up.'"
Pearlman, 21, is a former soloist for the Miami Boys Choir, a Jewish Orthodox pop group founded by Yerachmiel Begun in 1977. The group began in Miami and in 1980 moved to Brooklyn, New York, where they've been since, retaining its original name.
A few months ago, Pearlman noticed the Miami Boys Choir account on TikTok but didn't think much of their small following. Then all of a sudden, he said messages came left and right about a viral video of him and his choirmates onstage in shiny red and silver button-up shirts in 2007 singing a song called “Yerushalayim” in Hebrew.
"What started off as a slow rise, like a couple hundred thousand views, all of a sudden turned to a million to 3, 4 or 5 million views," Pearlman, a soloist in the video, told TODAY by Zoom. "It just started like doubling, tripling."
When the video took off on TikTok, Chananya Begun, Yerachmiel’s son, was amazed by how many people reached out to him. He said people couldn't believe that in today's day and age there was something Jewish on social media, with almost no negativity.
"They're trying to wrap their heads around it, and it gives them hope," Chananya Begun said.
Pearlman found it interesting that the TikTok that went viral was the song "Yerushalayim," which means "Jerusalem" in English. He said the video introduces people to the Jewish entertainment world, which he feels has been isolated to the Jewish community.
"People are really appreciating the universal values of it," Pearlman said. "Good music is good music and people connect with it."
Since the "Yerushalayim" TikTok went viral, Pearlman and another soloist in the video, Binyamin Abramowitz, 24, noticed TikTok users re-creating it.
Every time there’s another duet of the video, Pearlman said, someone sends it to him. “They say, ‘Oh, you got to see what this person said about you,'" Pearlman said. "It’s very surreal."
The best re-creation Pearlman’s seen is a Super Bowl halftime show spoof. "Rihanna who?" Pearlman recalled the video said. "MBC for 2023 halftime show all the way."
For Abramowitz, a couple of videos stand out to him. One duet he liked compared the four soloists to four basketball players. Another one compared them to different characters from "How I Met Your Mother," he said.
Abramowitz was most surprised by a video someone made that compiles all of his solos from the choir's DVDs. He said he was shocked to see there are so many people who say they are fans of him.
Pearlman and Abramowitz also filmed their own response to the TikTok. After Pearlman filmed a duet lip-syncing to his old solo, his followers commented asking him to film another video of him actually singing. "They wanted to know how I sound now," Pearlman said.
When Chananya Begun started the Miami Boys Choir TikTok a few months ago, he knew there was a chance that something crazy might happen.
Chananya Begun took to the social media platform hoping to shed light on his father's work. Over the Miami Boys Choir's 40-year history, Yerachmiel Begun has composed over 500 songs and 32 albums for the choir, most of them in Hebrew.
In the days after the video went viral, Chananya Begun watched people grow passionate about the choir's music, which previously had been unique to the Orthodox Jewish community.
“The videos that people posted said that they have so many challenges in their life and Miami Boys Choir was keeping them going and brings them back to themselves,” Chananya Begun said.
In the midst of all the craziness, Pearlman, Abramowitz and other former members of the choir reconnected in a WhatsApp chat. So far, the group already has 20 members, and they are discussing a possible reunion to meet some of their fans.
"That would be pretty epic," Pearlman said. "Getting the band back together. It would be really full circle."