Simmy Cohen has hardly read from the Torah since his bar mitzvah. When he’s not working at his marketing job from his home in Queens, Cohen spends far more time these days reading children’s books to his 13-month-old daughter.
But with a spark of comedic genius and perhaps a little quarantine-induced imagination, he put the two together in a video of himself reading — no, chanting — the classic Margaret Wise Brown picture book “Goodnight Moon” set to the sing-song cantillation known as Torah trope.
Cohen hoped the video would resonate with other observant Jews whose access to live Torah readings ended when their synagogues closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But the video quickly found a broader audience, with over 40,000 views and several hundred retweets, including one from the actor Joshua Malina, who shared the video with his 281,000 followers. Inspired by the original video, another Twitter user created his own version using the Sephardic and Moroccan vocalizations.
Cohen said he was surprised by positive reactions from Jews spanning the religious and cultural spectrum. But in retrospect, he said, it’s not shocking.
“I actually think people do miss the sound of leyning,” or Torah reading, Cohen said.
Cohen has followed his original production with “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom,” another children’s classic, with trope written by a friend from Twitter, Avi Schwartz.