Rabotai. (Courtesy of Temple Israel)

Michael Smolash and Neil Michaels joined forces with Rabotai to create an inspiring parody of “Mr. Red, White and Blue” to try and bring some unity to Am Yisrael.

Temple Israel Cantors Michael Smolash and Neil Michaels joined forces with the Rabotai Jewish A Cappella group to create an inspiring parody of “Mr. Red, White and Blue,” a patriotic song by country singer Coffey Anderson, to try and bring some unity to Am Yisrael. 

Cantor Neil Michaels
Cantor Neil Michaels

Coming off the heels of a difficult period of unrest in Israel and the pandemic, the cantors said they wanted to emphasize that the Jewish people are “one family, have one home, and we pray to the Almighty to continue to watch over us, bring us home and bring peace to all nations.”

Rabotai (meaning gentlemen) is a fresh and exciting Jewish a cappella group composed of energetic vocal talent and professional beatboxing, mixing classical Jewish songs with modern pop. Coming from different corners of the world, its members found each other in Israel. 

Rabotai’s rich vocal style drives the inspiring lyrics as the two leading American Reform cantors and this Israeli Orthodox singing powerhouse come together to support the Jewish homeland. 

Cantor Michael Smolash
Cantor Michael Smolash

The song starts with the lyrics “From the days of our inception, we’ve been seeking your protection. It’s the same thing over and over again.” 

The song continues with a Hebrew verse translated in English to: “Now we’re in different lands, everyone sings in many languages. But we all say in one voice: Amen!” 

The song reverts to English with the prideful lyrics “Standin’ for blue and white …” At the one-minute mark, the song wraps in the chorus “Standing for Kachol v’Lavan (blue and white).” 

Coming Together

The video was filmed both at Temple Israel and on location at historic Ammunition Hill, the site of one of the fiercest battles of the Six-Day War and now “a museum dedicated to creating the state, the history, the background and the story of Israel. They have the campus there with the museum, tanks, trenches and it’s very cool scenery,” said Rabotai member Daniel Brill. “We were able to get access to that and that’s how we ended up on a tank.” 

Daniel Brill
Daniel Brill

Added Cantor Smolash, “I thought it was a very beautiful touch because we were looking for ways that our congregation and Reform Jews in America could connect to this piece about loving Israel.” 

Rabotai chose the “Mr. Red, White and Blue” melody after sifting through a few song ideas, including both American and Israeli songs. 

“The patriotic emotional pull that song had … I fell in love with that tune,” Brill said. “When this opportunity came around, it seemed to me that having that story being told with some of the Zionistic unity perspectives would make so much sense.” 

Cantor Smolash said he doesn’t like getting into politics. “I like sticking to music. It brings people together. Where there are tensions between American Jews and Israeli Jews … music is the perfect counterbalance.”

Video Screenshot

The cantors’ relationship with Rabotai dates back to Purim. Cantor Smolash left a comment on Rabotai’s YouTube channel praising the group’s work. Rabotai approved of the cantors’ Purim video in return. 

Cantor Smolash said he filmed music videos virtually at Temple Israel with his colleagues in the past using shared green screens, and it worked well. “We figured we could work just as well from Detroit to Jerusalem. 

“It was amazing to see how Rabotai worked because they’re super creative, they’re super innovative and it’s lovely to see how the ideas bounce around and get refined,” Smolash said. “

“But also doing a project with Israelis remotely, we made friendships and formed a connection that was unique!” 

Watch the video below.

Video Credits

Arrangement by Noah Bar-Shain. Music production by Yonatan Stern. Videographers were Donell Hall and Daniel Malchi of Israel. Lyrics by Daniel Brill, Michael Smolash and Maya Shtramer Grinboim. Singers included Cantors Michael Smolash and Neil Michaels along with the members of Rabotai: Daniel Brill, Noah Bar-Shain, Brian Hoffman, Ariav Schlesinger and Daniel Fox. 

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