I Can’t Stop Thinking About This 2006 Passover Parody Music Video

"Who Let the Jews Out" has an animated sheep with a British accent smoking a pipe, Pharaoh as the great sphinx and a PROMISED LAND OR BUST bumper sticker.

You know those random internet culture moments that stick in your brain? We all have them, usually from a time when the internet was younger and more chaotic than it seems to be now. Maybe it’s the white and gold/blue and black dress, the Gangnam Style dance or the famous Oscar selfie. You remember them at the most inopportune moments and next thing you know, you’re cackling in your car at the memory. For me, it’s this video: a 2006 Passover parody titled “Who Let the Jews Out?”

The first time I watched it, I must have been about 6 years old. My dad turned on our giant family computer and typed in the URL for YouTube, which had no app and no ads. Then he pulled up this animated Passover video, and my world has never been the same.

“Who Let the Jews Out” seems to have been created as part of an advertising campaign for a book that I’ve never read called “Schlepping Through the Alps.” It’s written by Johns Hopkins faculty member Sam Apple about a Yiddish folk singer and “wandering shepard” Hans Breuer. While the subject of the book seems compelling and I’m known for my ravenous reading appetite, the book was a bit above my grade level (age 6!) in 2006, and I’ve yet to revisit it. Maybe one day!

In a bizarre twist that confirms that YouTube ads in 2006 were very different than they are now, the video and the book seem to have little to do with one another (especially to someone who hasn’t read the book yet!) outside of the fact that the video begins with a pipe-smoking sheep that mirrors the one on the cover of Apple’s book. Also, both the video and the book address the subject of Judaism. But that is truly where the similarities end.

“Who Let the Jews Out” begins with an animated sheep (yes, the pipe-smoking one) going up the stairs of Pharaoh’s palace and speaking to Pharaoh in a British accent. He says: “Oh hello, Pharaoh. The Jews have escaped. So, um, yeah.”

Animated Pharaoh, upset at the ideas of the Jews no longer being enslaved, promptly loses his mind. “That’s impossible!” he says. “Who let the Jews out?”

What follows is a wild mash up that must be seen to be truly appreciated, but I’ll try my best to describe it here. There are ancient Egyptians dancing, a sea of frogs, hieroglyphics, Egyptian gods, and throughout, a very angry Pharaoh asking everyone: “Who let the Jews out?” Pharaoh does also appear as the great sphinx at one point too. (Oh, and perhaps this is obvious, but let me emphasize in case it isn’t: “Who let the Jews out” is sung to the tune of “Who let the dogs out?” Obviously.)

The video then quickly shifts to the Red Sea. It’s neatly parted and ancient Israelites are driving through in top-down convertibles. Of course, they are holding Manischewitz and matzah, smiling and bopping along in the other. One Israelite is even making a Star of David with his fingers. (I’d be remiss to not point out that one Israelite with a particularly long beard is also holding the ten commandments, even though those don’t come until a couple of Torah portions later, but I’ll forgive the video for the biblical inaccuracy.)

Finally, as the video ends, the camera zooms in on a bumper sticker on the back of one of the Israelites’ cars: “PROMISED LAND OR BUST.” It then shifts into a pitch for Apple’s book with the fictional sheep remarking that the book is getting good press, “probably because I’m on the cover.” And that’s it. That’s the whole parody.

The video is less than two minutes long — 1 minute and 19 seconds, to be exact —  and yet it’s stuck with me for about 17 years. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I was shown it for the first time at a young, impressionable age. Maybe it’s because I’m tickled by the fact that it’s a Passover video that is an advertisement for a book that is not explicitly about Passover. Maybe it’s because until then, I hadn’t seen Jewish content online that seemed to be meant for children. Maybe it’s because I’ve always loved that the video is not trying to teach me anything but is instead just silly, joyful, funny and catchy. Who knows?

What I do know is that even after all these years, I can’t stop thinking about “Who Let The Jews Out.” I’ll never forget the pipe-smoking sheep — and maybe now you won’t be able to, either.

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