Oops, the Maccabeats Were Kinda Mean

When I saw the link for the new Maccabeats video, I was excited! Another song to play ad nauseum on youtube as I sit in my office. Those Maccabeats, they’re so catchy. And I love showing the videos to my students.

Then, a friend’s comment gave me pause. She noted that this video (now “unlisted” on youtube) was (probably inadvertently) really awful to Sigma Delta Tau (ΣΔΤ, pronounced “SDT”), a national (and it just so happens, historically Jewish) sorority.

Full disclosure, I was in a (different) sorority at a large state school and am a graduate/alumna in good standing. I was in the sorority for the food, mostly, and didn’t really enjoy it like many of my friends did. It (being in a sorority) seemed like the thing to do at my school, so I did it. While I felt that the Greek system was mostly silly, some of my friends flat-out hated it. My feelings of mild dislike for the system and my modicum of tolerance for the silliness within the walls of my own house stayed with me for the 4 years of school and beyond.

Sigma Delta Tau is a national sorority, formed in 1917 when other sororities at Cornell closed their doors to these Jewish women. Today, many chapters of ΣΔΤ exist, and while they’re no longer 100% Jewish, they are filled with lovely (and, I’m sure, not-so-lovely) young ladies who enjoy the sorority life. I’ve always said that if a ΣΔΤ existed at my school, I would’ve joined it, because I like that the letters look like EAT.

In the video, a pack of stereotypical high school bullies (decked out in Glee-like letterman jackets and hats with Greek letters on them) harasses a kid at his locker. Too bad ΣΔΤ is not a fraternity. It is not a group of high school boys. (If I had to guess, I’d hazard that the Maccabeats chose the letters on the hats of their video’s bullies because the Greek characters look like “EAT.”)  Why use letterman jackets and Greek letters to transform “nice” guys into “mean” guys, just by throwing on some emblematic gear?  Bullies come in all shapes and sizes, and by stereotyping Greeks and Greek life, you’re not really doing much better than the people you’re attempting to mock.

Maccabeats. Guys. You have to “earn” your letters when you join a Greek house. The nice girls of ΣΔΤ wouldn’t just give their letters to mean high school boys. In fact, a quick perusal of their website shows that, as a national sorority, Sigma Delta Tau supports organizations like Jewish Women International. If you’re going to use Greek letters, do your research. I don’t care if your school doesn’t have a Greek system. Don’t (inadvertently, I hope) falsely make a Greek organization out to be a bunch of teenage bullies.

I know there’s a Greek aspect to the Chanukah story. Those Greeks and the kids in Greek letter organizations are totally different.

It’s Chanukah, guys. Time to rededicate your video. Fix your error. Or, at the very least, apologize to the women of ΣΔΤ.

6 Responses to “Oops, the Maccabeats Were Kinda Mean”

  1. Thank you so much for this article. As a current member of Sigma Delta Tau and someone who LOVES the Maccabeats, I was horrified when I saw this video. I love my chapter and really think this video needs an apology attached to it!

    Mackenzie Lipman · November 21st, 2013 at 6:17 pm
  2. A member of the Macccabeats posted this on facebook. Apparently the bullies were “Greek” in homage to the original Hannukah story.

    In the weeks and months following the explosion of “Candlelight“, we received a remarkable variety of correspondence from fans all around the world. But one young man’s email stood out. This young man explained that, of the three thousand students in his rural community’s public school, he was the only Jew. And until he saw our video, he had never told anyone that he was Jewish. However, after seeing our video and seeing that there was nothing wrong with being proud of your religion and heritage in a public setting, all that changed. He wore his kipa to school for the first time, and was not afraid to be proud of his tradition and who he was.

    That young man’s story inspired this year’s Hanukkah video. An adaptation of “Burn” by British singer Ellie Goulding, the video tells the story of how one young man draws inspiration from his Hanukkah experience to stand up to his modern-day “Greek” bullies. In a way, his family’s observance fulfills pirsumei nisa (publicizing the Hanukkah miracles, a term the Talmud uses to describe the function of the Hanukkah candles), as our protagonist channels the flames of Hanukkah to feed the fire of his Jewish pride.

    Aryeh · November 21st, 2013 at 8:48 pm
  3. [...] a friend’s comment gave me pause. She noted that this video (now “unlisted” [...] Jewschool Be Sociable, Share! [...]

    Oops, the Maccabeats Were Kinda Mean | Jewish News · November 22nd, 2013 at 8:57 am
  4. Some People are just too dense to get it.

    Obviously the Maccabeats are trying to imply that Sigma-Delta-Tau made these mean guys honorary members and gave them their letters because the bullies earned this honor by supporting and sharing in the values of Sigma-Delta-Tau…. not.

    First off, bullies tend not to earn things they steal them. Is the irony completely lost to you that a bully would steal a hat because it looks cool, like “EAT”. But, at the same time the bully-men are too stupid to realize that those letters represent a sorority, for women only, that stands diametrically opposed to the very bully that stole the symbol.

    Those hats are not being mean to ΣΔΤ. Quite the reverse. They are poking fun at the stupidity of Bullies.

    Even more ironic, to use Greek to poke fun at bullies in a Hanukkah video. Brilliant, Awesome!

    The Maccabeats owe no apology because they have not done anything to warrant an apology, except to a bully.

    On the other hand, i think you owe the Maccabeats an apology for accusing them of doing something they did not do and attacking their character for no good reason.

    Some People · November 22nd, 2013 at 9:04 am
  5. Here’s what made me a uncomfortable about that video – the final image of the giant menorah burning in the front lawn. Just seemed too reminiscent of cross burnings…

    just wondering · November 25th, 2013 at 10:25 pm
  6. Hey Some People,

    I think the point SBB is making is that it wouldn’t be hard for the Maccabeats to do their homework on this and it would be an easy thing for them to make right now, after the fact.

    Ruby K · November 26th, 2013 at 10:56 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