| Reel Chronicles |

Through the Years

We take you through a few of our more memorable Mir productions

The annual Mir Yerushalayim campaign is one of the largest jobs on our calendar, both in terms of the amount of content we create and the numbers of viewers we have (at the live event as well as the online promos). Interestingly, the Mir is also one of our oldest clients; we’ve been working with them since the very beginning, when the entire staff consisted of... me.

In early 2014, I decided to rent a small office in downtown Lakewood, New Jersey, reasoning that working from home would never allow me to seriously grow my new business. I couldn’t afford much, just one small room in an older building, and I davened that enough projects would come in to justify the expense.

After schlepping my boxes up the rickety staircase, my first order of “business” was to scout out the neighborhood for an afternoon Minchah. When I heard there wasn’t any, I offered to host a daily minyan in my office. It was a pretty cramped space, and we barely squeezed in the small group of men from the building every day.

One of the regular attendees was Chanoch Zundel Herskowitz, director of Yeshivas Mir Yerushalayim’s US Office, which was down the hall from me. After 18 months of daily pre-Minchah small talk, we had gotten to know each other a little, and in August, 2015, Chanoch asked if I could create four videos for the Mir’s upcoming Lakewood dinner. He introduced me to Boruch Wenger of Artech Marketing, who plays a central role in many of the Mir’s projects, and together the three of us worked out a production plan.

Although Chanoch doesn’t have a background in video production, his sense of messaging is incredibly honed, and he would hold me accountable for every line in every video.

“What does so-and-so add by saying the honoree does a lot of chesed?” he would ask. “The person before him already spoke about specific initiatives he’s undertaken — we don’t need the more general and clichéd statement.”

Knowing that Chanoch would review each draft with such an eye for detail forced me to put out not just engaging videos, but pieces with sharp, tight, and crystal-clear messaging.

We’ve worked together every year since then — the Mir’s dinner this Sunday is our 11th dinner collaboration.

Here, we take you through a few of our more memorable Mir productions.

Happy Anniversary

2017 was a special year for the Mir, because the yeshivah was celebrating its 200th anniversary. In the past, the yeshivah held two separate dinners in America: one in Lakewood and another in Brooklyn. In honor of the milestone anniversary, though, the dinner committee decided to host one larger central event in the newly opened Bell Works Center in Holmdel, New Jersey.

Chanoch commissioned a nine-minute song, a musical journey with the lyrics showcasing the yeshivah’s rich history. Our job was to prepare footage to match the lyrics. As you can imagine, this became more challenging the further back in time we went, so we came up with some creative workarounds. One was that we prepared animated graphics such as a book opening, and overlaying a picture on an old-fashioned scroll, which allowed us to leave the limited footage we did have up for longer on the screen without having it feel too dragged out.

Another workaround was to show Baruch Levine and Yisroel Werdyger, who were singing live at the dinner, for the sections that didn’t have matching footage. This didn’t exactly make our lives easier, because we needed to prepare footage that could integrate seamlessly into the live performance. That entailed designing a video with blank sections so the AV crew could play the live footage over the blank sections we left in — a complicated arrangement, because the timing had to be very precise! If the footage was even slightly off, by the end of the singers’ long performance there would be a time lag between the live singing and the visuals.

Another challenge was that we didn’t work with a final audio track, as is standard for a music video, rather we were given what’s called a “click track,” which has the song’s beat tapped out with a metronome. This is fed live to the earpieces of the singers and drummers, helping everyone stay on rhythm.

Using the final lyrics text, we were able to time exactly how things should appear on and off the screens, including the scrolling lyrics that would be on-screen during the event. Well, almost exactly. Yisroel Lamm, who was conducting the 12-piece orchestra, has a better sense of beat than we do, and he called us out for being a millisecond off by the end of the song.

Harmonic Legacy: For The Mir’s bicentennial, a unique challenge led to creative solutions: blending live performance with precisely timed visuals, turning historical narratives into a harmonious spectacle at the heart of the landmark celebration

Dinner in Lockdown

As with most of our clients (and the world at large), 2020, with the onset of the Covid pandemic, was a tricky year for the dinner. The Mir’s dinner is always a week or so before Pesach, so they were one of the first mosdos that had to decide how to proceed. We had already prepared much of the content, but they had no choice but to cancel the event. They asked us to put out a short video message informing the public of the cancellation.

Shortly before Shavuos, the Mir decided to host a virtual dinner instead. We had already prepared several videos for the original dinner, but now they needed hours more footage, as the whole dinner would consist of pre-recorded presentations. In addition to filming anyone who had been scheduled to speak live, we also prepared a 25-minute video with renowned tour guide Yehuda Geberer walking through Yerushalayim’s Beis Yisrael neighborhood, showcasing the Mir campus and sharing historical background on the yeshivah and its growth.

The Mir also added a musical presentation, and all of these components, along with our original honoree videos, supplemented the content so we had a full three-hour virtual program. This tremendous amount of material, coupled with the tight timeframe and Covid-limited staff, meant we were pushing hard to meet the deadline.

And then, three days before the dinner, my wife gave birth. (I can still remember taking a phone call from a concerned honoree while she was in the labor and delivery ward.)

Chanoch and the others at the Mir took it in stride, even though we were all feeling the immense pressure, and he graciously wished me mazal tov (and jokingly suggested I name my son Nosson Tzvi in honor of the late Rosh Yeshivah. I would’ve considered it, but my father in-law’s name is Tzvi).

As if we weren’t being thrown enough curveballs yet, on the day of the dinner the organizers realized that many neighborhoods were starting outdoor minyanim. Estimating about 30 minutes for Minchah and Maariv, they realized that many of the viewers would be offline for the same half hour, so we quickly shuffled the program to ensure that no one would miss the main part of the presentation.

Pandemic Pivot: An innovative shift to a virtual program featured Yehuda Geberer’s engaging tour, seamlessly connecting the Yeshiva’s rich legacy to a global community of viewers on lockdown

This Is Mir

Every year, we try to find a new angle for the feature video. Though the classic approach would be to put together a list of people to talk about the yeshivah’s success, I’ve found that sometimes a video can be more compelling when it doesn’t have the typical sit-down interview.

In 2022 we created a feature called “This Is Mir,” in which we gave a first-person view of the yeshivah from the perspective of a yungerman, showing the sights and sounds that every talmid encounters on a daily basis. Our goal was to have viewers experience the yeshivah for themselves, rather than hear others talk about it.

We filmed shots of yungeleit getting on the bus, entering the building, taking a plate at lunchtime, walking into shiur — and all of the details that make it feel genuine, such as walking up the various staircases, hearing leining during davening, and more. There was no dialogue, just soft music in the background, so we were able to include a lot of ambient noise in the video: beis medrash learning, street sounds, like beeping Egged buses, plates being stacked in the dining hall, all of which make the footage come to life.

And it did. We received overwhelming feedback to that feature, especially from alumni who told us they were brought back to some of their best years and treasured Mir memories. Chanoch pointed out that showing the footage without interviews allows the viewer to arrive at his own interpretation, customizing the experience for each person.

VFX Associate Director Jeremy Lewis brings the intricate tapestry of the Mir to life, meticulously weaving individual profiles to reveal the unique journey of each talmid from his seat at the editing desk. Each talmid’s integral role in the collective saga is magnified through an evocative panorama of names and faces

Every Talmid a Story

Last year, we also let the footage speak for itself. Our goal in that case was to help people realize that each of the thousands of talmidim learning in the Mir has his own story, makes his own sacrifice, and offers his own contribution. Mir Yerushalayim’s International Liaison Uri Stern provided us with a spreadsheet of several dozen names of talmidim, along with each one’s picture, seat location, and other information.

One picture, that of an older talmid chacham, had his seder halimud listed alongside it, but not “Maseches Shabbos” or “halachah” like the others — rather the spreadsheet simply said “Kol HaTorah — the entire Torah.”

Is that a mistake? I wondered aloud.

Senior Production Manager Moshe Niehaus peered at the screen.

“I know him! He was my roommate when I was in the Mir,” he exclaimed — about a man clearly 40 years his senior.

Noticing my quizzical expression, he explained that apparently, after an exhausting day of learning, this talmid chacham would be too drained to make the trip home without a short break to refresh himself. His nightly ritual consisted of visiting a nearby dorm room — Moshe’s — and eating a single slice of bread while completing his notes from the day’s learning, yes, on Kol HaTorah.

Armed with the list of seats and talmidim, our cinematographers went up and down the aisles in the batei medrash and zoomed in on several particular talmidim. In the editing stages, we added a short bio on the screen, listing things such as where this highlighted talmid is from, how many years he’s been in yeshivah, and what he’s learning.

After showcasing 13 talmidim so viewers had the “micro” sense of the individuals making up the yeshivah, we expanded the scope exponentially by zooming out to a wide shot of a packed beis medrash. We placed the names of the hundreds of talmidim in the shot on the screen, so you saw hundreds of names hovering over hundreds of heads. This visual, more than any soundbite, drove home the idea that every talmid is his own story.


Working with a yeshivah as prestigious as the Mir, with its rich legacy and global impact, is a tremendous zechus. It’s also tremendously challenging. Aside from the responsibility to make sure to present the yeshivah properly, having such an immutable mesorah makes it difficult to come up with a new angle each year; the goals, vision, and reality of the yeshivah haven’t changed much in 200-plus years. Determining how to make each year’s presentation unique is always a process, but somehow — with the yeshivah’s special siyata d’Shmaya — we’ve always been able to come up with something.

What are we doing this year? (a question my shul seatmate asks me every morning….)

Well, you’ll just have to wait for a follow-up column to find out!


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1007)

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