It’s safe to say Heidi Klum, Simon Cowell, Howie Mandell and Mel B don’t see a lot of tzitzit (Jewish prayer shawls) in their roles as judges on the 11th season of America’s Got Talent.
But that all changed in the episode of the eclectic TV talent competition that aired Tuesday night.
Ilan Swartz-Brownstein and Josh Leviton, two Orthodox yeshiva students from Manhattan, took to the stage on the last episode of the audition rounds with their white shirts, black pants, black velvet kippot and tzitzit swinging.
The pair sported an unlikely look for their performance: beatboxing to Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass.” But the verdict? Unanimous: all four judges voted the duo through to the next round.
“How did you two meet?” Mandell asked them before they started performing.
“We were both in Israel at the same time, and we met at the Western Wall, which is the holiest place in the Jewish tradition,” said Swartz-Brownstein, who is a student at Yeshiva University.
The pair also perform locally in and around New York City; Leviton is known as “The Orthobox” and Swartz-Brownstein goes by “The Aleph Bass.” They even performed together in Jerusalem last year.
Leviton has sang with the popular Jewish a cappella group The Maccabeats – including at the White House last Hanukka. Swartz-Brownstein is a member of the YU group the Y-Studs, and dressed up as a giant blue dreidel in a holiday music video last year that was even featured on Time Magazine’s website.
What’s next for the duo? The judges’ four nods mean they head to the next round for the “judges’ cuts.” If they make it through that, live episodes of the show begin airing in the US on July 26th.
America’s Got Talent airs across the United States on Tuesday nights on NBC. More than 10 million viewers regularly tune in to the popular show.