Edon Pinchot is Titanium

Lest there be any doubt in your minds, Skokie, IL is the bastion of cool these days. Jewschool’s very own Adam Davis just moved there, I grew up there, and…oh yeah, the likely winner of this season’s America’s Got Talent hails from there too.

AGT Contestant and Skokie native Edon Pinchot, 14

Singing sensation AGT finalist Edon Pinchot is 14 years old and about to start high school at Chicago’s Ida Crown Jewish Academy this coming fall. He and his family live just blocks from my parents (who are long-time friends of his grandparents), and his parents are pillars of the orthodox Jewish community there.   I remember his mother, Laurie—an exquisitely refined, thoughtful woman, from the Skokie Women’s Tefilla Group which I regularly attended in my pre-adolescent years. The rest of the family are also substantial folks who excel at what they do.

About three years ago when I was visiting my parents during Chanukkah, I had dinner with their family one Friday night.  Sitting at their Shabbat table, it was clear that each of the Pinchot children was bursting with talent and natural charisma. Before Shabbat, when the family lit Chanukkah candles, the two oldest sons effortlessly rattled off some of the lesser-known hilkhot Chanukkah (the Jewish laws about Chanukkah); an older daughter enthusiastically described a community production she and several of her siblings recently performed in; the youngest daughter was beyond adorable, and all of the children also sang beautifully—they were like the Jewish Von Trapps. At one point in the middle of the meal, Edon starting speaking of his passion for musicals, speaking quite articulately and revealing an impressive knowledge of the genre.

Edon became an obvious favourite performer in his youth group, NCSY, where friends began touting him as “the Jewish Justin Bieber.”  About a year ago, youtube videos began to surface of Edon singing various pop hits while accompanying himself on piano. This is where I began to worry.  I always worry when people release youtube videos—of any kind—of young children and teens.  Beyond the obvious danger of child predators lurking anonymously on the internet, there is also the basic issue of comment cruelty. Posting videos of yourself opens one up to some potentially harsh responses, as anyone can write virtually anything.  Especially at such a young, transitional age, when people are their most impressionable, such comments could be irreversibly destructive.  Upon further reflection, I reconsidered my position, as this is a very sensible family, and Edon is more grounded and mature than most of his peers.

In reviewing some of the youtube comments under his videos, there is a range of responses from online listeners: everything from words of praise from his peers, who proudly claim third-degree Jewish geography relations to him and/or marvel at what a Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d’s name) it is that he performs with a kippah, to borderline racist assumptions about Judaism hurled by ignorant users, to hateful people making baseless assumptions in crude and vituperative language about other aspects of his identity, to new fans who simply admire him for his great talent.

Now the stakes are even higher, as Edon, still donning a kippah, performs before America and three celebrity judges, two of whom are Jewish.  After his first televised appearance, all three judges were floored. Judge Sharon Osbourne even likened him to a young Billy Joel. Winner of the ‘did you really just say that?’ category was Howie Mandel, who turned to his colleagues and expressed surprise, “So unexpected. I love being surprised.” What, did he see a young man with a kippah and naturally assume it would be mediocre??

It was unclear if being ‘visibly Jewish’ would work against Edon, who continues to shine as he competes for the million dollar prize, but my bigger concern was the media spinning his genuine religious identity into a novelty.  Last night, after Edon performed David Guetta’s Titanium live during the AGT quarterfinals, blowing the 3,000-person live audience out of the water, Mandel had to reduce this genuinely gifted young man into a novelty by asking if he received such a standing ovation at his bar mitzvah (yeah Howie, you should have seen how everyone stood for his Musaf Kedushah).  Edon responded with great aplomb, smiling humbly that it was “nothing like this,” showing he was indeed “titanium.”  Mandel could not resist by concluding, “Jew are terrific!” ::Wince::  Howard Stern was more tactful (wait, did I just type that?) in his critique, treating him seriously as he would anyone else and very astutely picking up on the fact that the teen is “not a show biz kid,” and that he is humble and ‘nice.’

Much like the recent brouhaha over Matisyahu’s new “look” (a perennial favourite topic of discussion here at Jewschool), Edon’s skyrocketing ascent to popular stardom foregrounds many of these same issues of what it means to be a self-identifying, practicing Jew in the popular limelight. But especially if he wins AGT, Edon’s star is likely to eclipse Matisyahu’s.  Already, a more diverse audience is listening—and judging—the 14-year-old Skokie native.  Now, in addition to an ever-expanding fan count marveling at Edon’s performances, youtube comments under his videos include several very shocking anti-Semitic slurs, a couple of hateful, anti-Jewish comments in other languages, and more off-topic hate screeds.  In short, I just hope the judges and the rest of America can calmly treat this extraordinary singer’s religious identity like they would anyone else’s incidental religious or ethnic identity without obsessing over it and focus on what really matters here: his voice.

Check out the results of last night’s live show tonight at 9/8 central on NBC.

21 Responses to “Edon Pinchot is Titanium”

  1. “judges, two of whom are Jewish”…mmm, depending on how you figure these things, and I’m not gonna go there, all three of the judges may be Jewish, as all have a least one Jewish parent, Howie Mandel has two, and the OCD thing goin’ on.

    Sof Maarav · July 3rd, 2012 at 8:43 pm
  2. what a talented young man! Best of luck to you! Your voice is a gift. You deserve amazing things to come. :)

    maggie · July 3rd, 2012 at 11:27 pm
  3. Edon also helped break out Color War at Camp Moshava (Wild Rose, WI).

    Check out this video (at 1:02, you see his siblings send their wishes to him from camp): www.youtube.com/watch?v=JV1ZdqiDmrI&feature=youtu.be

    M · July 4th, 2012 at 12:54 am
  4. Sof: sharon osborne is jewish too

    sp · July 4th, 2012 at 2:36 pm
  5. sp: If you hold by patrilineal descent (as the Reform Movement does), Osbourne is Jewish. Otherwise, she is not.

    M · July 4th, 2012 at 3:01 pm
  6. Thanks for exposing my secret geography. Now everyone will march on Skokie… ayn chadash b’tachat hashemesh.

    adam davis · July 5th, 2012 at 9:58 am
  7. [...] of you who have been following this season’s America’s Got Talent and/or have read my previous post know, one of the most promising contenders in the show is a religious Jew. Not only that, but he is [...]

    Friday Challenge: Can You Match These Musicians to the Jewish Day Schools They Attended | Jewschool · July 6th, 2012 at 3:10 am
  8. Oh relax with all the jewish stuff. Howie was joking around. Go a few minutes without being offended, it’s fun, you’ll like it.

    Todd Short · July 6th, 2012 at 8:32 pm
  9. oh my god. he is so cute. I WANT TO MARRY HIM AND HIS AMAZING VOICE

    E · July 7th, 2012 at 12:06 am
  10. He is AMAAZING I really want to get to know him! WOAH !!! He’s AWESOME!!!

    Emma · July 7th, 2012 at 12:17 pm
  11. edon pinchot is amazing i love him sooo much we are the same age and the first time i heard his voice i fell in love one day when he becomes famous im going to meet him and i am going to be his biggest fan…. wait i already am. he is amazing and he has a beautiful voice. I LOVE EDON PINCHOT SOOOOO MUCH <3

    savannah · July 11th, 2012 at 4:50 pm
  12. [...] Edon Pinchot Gets Standing Ovation on America’s Got Talent (VIDEO), from the Algemeiner e-paper;. Edon Pinchot is Titanium by Raysh Weiss Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012, from Jewschool; Edon, from America’s got Talent [...]

    Edon Pinchot | Roland's Ramblings · July 14th, 2012 at 7:55 am
  13. Im from Israel and I think that he’s a great singer with an amazing voice ! hope he will come to Israel soon :)

    yuval :) · July 28th, 2012 at 12:20 pm
  14. Actually all of the judges are Jewish. Sharon is Sharon Levy Osborne.

    Sheri · August 30th, 2012 at 3:27 am
  15. Let me say first Edon is very very talented and I would love to see him perform Billy Joel songs. Also my 4 year old daughter is in love with him.
    With that said this show was to get his name out there. He never had a chance at winning. One reason alone. Money. He is 14 and would not be able to perform the late shows Vegas acts require. In the end its all about the money but he will have the last laugh.
    Good luck Edon I look fwd to hearing your music.

    Eric Horowitz · August 31st, 2012 at 1:58 am
  16. Edon is amazing singing Titanium. Gotta agree with Howard though. Didn’t think his last song choise was a good one for him. I can’t stop playing his Titanium though…. AMAZING!!!

    joy miller-perez · September 4th, 2012 at 10:16 pm
  17. Hello peopol!
    To Edon hes a amazing voice…….!!!
    and if you’r can see Edon he really like to Elvis Presley!!!
    okay if you agree with me sand me a massaje to my email.
    I’m live in Israel and I ever was in America!
    מי שמאמין בהשם לא מפחד!!

    Michal (is a girl name) · September 11th, 2012 at 10:51 am
  18. Hey is me agagin !
    Edon if you see this so you’r can sing a song of The maccabeats it is called One day!!! please…..
    (if you’r know this song)

    Michal (is a girl name) · September 11th, 2012 at 11:07 am
  19. hey edon will you go out with me?my name is alyssa marie scott i am 12 years old and go to mowet but you say yes then mabey we can facetime or something love you edon bye

    alyssa scott · September 14th, 2012 at 3:11 pm
  20. Okay, this article really pisses me off. Us Edoneers don’t even judge the fact that he is Jewish. We judge him on his singing, and how incredibly nice he is. When Howie said ‘Jew are terrific’ it was a joke. Edon LAUGHED at it, so you should too. Stop being so stupid about it

    Jamie · September 18th, 2012 at 3:26 pm
  21. Edon is so amazing. He is very talented and I love him so much. I’ve listened to every song that he has sung on YouTube for a few months, and by the looks of it, he’s very cute too! If Edon ever came to Michigan, I would want him to come to Union City. It would be the best thing that had ever happened to me. We are talking about bullying in school right now, so if he came to sing and talk about bullying, then I’m pretty sure everyone would freak out. He’s amazing, and me and all of my friends absolutely LOVE him! The best voice that I’ve ever heard. I fell in love at first sight! And he’s my exact age too! I would love to get in touch with him!

    Ashlyn · January 27th, 2014 at 4:47 pm

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik