How Jewish Values Will Save Justin Bieber


Producer “Scooter” Braun, left, and Justin Bieber in Never Say Never. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures


Just those first names ring bells in one’s head immediately without hesitation: the faces of once-fresh-faced teen pop stars gone bad, whether it be from alcohol, drugs, or car wrecks.

When you’re at the height of your career before you even hit puberty, what do you do?

In this day and age, if you’re one Justin Bieber, world-renowned teen sensation, you say your prayers. Seriously.

Just ask the guy behind the (almost) guy, Bieber’s manager, Scott “Scooter” Braun, who has been using the Jewish values instilled in him by his parents. Before every concert, he helps lead Bieber, who is not Jewish, in reciting the Shemah. Coming from someone who had to practically be wrangled into going to shul, this writer had to ask:  How does that work?!

“I actually didn’t help him. He helped himself,” said Braun. “Justin would say a prayer in Jesus’ name and then Dan, our Musical Director, who is also Jewish, and I would also say the Shemah. After the third time, Justin chimed in. We both looked at him, shocked, and he said: ‘I memorized it.’ We looked at each other and were like ‘what?!’ He took pride in showing us that he memorized it.”

Braun, himself, is certainly no stranger to Jewish prayers.

“I grew up in a Kosher household, so we had two dishwashers, two sets of knives, forks, and plates,” said Braun. On high holidays, the family had to be together in synagogue. And that wasn’t just until I moved out. To this day, we all have to come home and go to synagogue together. I was raised to be very proud of who I was.”

Growing up, Braun was also raised on a kaleidoscope of musical genŕes and artists. “I grew up in a household with everything!” Braun said. “My father use to listen to opera in the house, The Allman Brothers, Pat Metheny, George Benson, Motown, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, a lot of Michael Jackson, and Stevie Wonder. And there was the stuff that I was listening to, like Biggie [Editor’s Note: Christopher George Latore Wallace, the late rapper who went by the professional name of The Notorious B.I.G.] and all of that East Coast rap, as well as Snoop Dogg. I also loved Boyz II Men. As you get older, you get into other stuff like Green Day. I had no problem with pop music either. I was secure enough to say, as a kid, ‘yeah, I like it!’ So, if the girls were rocking out to ’N Sync, hey, I was down. Those guys could really sing.”

In fact, Braun, during his young adult years, was a party planner to the stars, including the latter boy band, as well as rapper/actor Chris “Ludacris” Bridges. Yet, that never caused him to become jaded by an otherwise fickle music industry.

“I can honestly tell you that I was never the guy who would just love this artist,” said an enthusiastic Braun. “Unless it was Michael Jackson or Stevie Wonder—those were my two favorites—I was never the guy who said, ‘I’m obsessed with this artist’ … I was always someone who was obsessed with song. I just absolutely loved songs and I always found that music is universal.”

Braun has made it his mission to lead his young performer on a path from boyhood to manhood—minus some of those pesky and clichéd sex, drugs, & rock n’ roll setbacks.

“He’s beyond a good kid,” said Braun. “He’s a great kid! Not a lot of kids could handle being in a fishbowl. He is handling himself with integrity, he’s growing up in front of everybody, and he understands the responsibilities of it all…and it is not easy. This is a kid who people expect the best from, every time. And he’s a special person.”

So special, in fact, that Bieber will be starring in his own biographical documentary, “Never Say Never” (arrived in theaters on Feb. 11) that’s already gaining momentum through sheer word-of-mouth from some famous faces.

“We let it hang raw, in the movie,” said Braun, also a major player in the feature film. “Ellen [DeGeneres] called me and told me ‘I love it! I had no idea how hard he worked. I had no idea how truly talented he really was!’ I mean, I’m having the host of [BET’s number-one-rated music video countdown show] 106 & Park, Terrence J—he’s a 28-year-old guy—pull me aside to say, ‘look, I saw the movie because I was interviewing him, but I’ve just gotta tell you, it’s one of my favorite movies ever! I walked out inspired and I’ve gotta work on my hustle. I have to do more with my life!’ Everyone is walking out of this movie shocked. They’re walking into it thinking that it’s a movie for teenagers, but it is a movie made for everyone. I wouldn’t make a movie that I didn’t enjoy. I am beyond proud of this movie, and if I didn’t feel that way, I wouldn’t feel comfortable going to my own culture, saying ‘please, support me.’ I wouldn’t want my people going to it, unless I knew it was something that they could be proud of.”

Shemah aside, when asked how his own Jewish heritage affects how he manages Justin, his response was very simple and matter-of-fact.

“You’re a Jew, so you’ll understand this,” he said. “Being a Jew is part of my DNA. It is who I am, it’s who my father raised me to be, and it’s my job to try and take that knowledge and put as much of it into Justin as possible, so he grows up to be a good man. No teenage act has ever failed because of their talent leaving them—they failed because of their personal life, and I’m trying to raise Justin to be a better man than I am, so he can handle everything. I get those values from my core; a part of that is having been raised the way I was raised.”

But what about those other former teen icons mentioned at the beginning of the article? How can one Jewish man prevent his charge from crashing during his meteoric rise to fame?

“Do you wanna know how I think he won’t fall? Music. The Beatles were the same thing as Justin. They were the big Boy Band of that time. People didn’t think they would last. But when you make great music, which The Beatles did better than anybody who ever did it, your career lasts. If Justin Bieber comes out making great records that people enjoy, for the rest of his life, he will stay around, because music decides who stays.”



Reprinted courtesy of The Omaha Jewish Press.