September 22, 2019

Bar Mitzvah DJ Discovers His Jewish Roots

Adam Welton a.k.a. DJ Mad Hatter; photo courtesy of Adam Welton

Adam Welton loves to pump up the party. So much so, he has been able to make a living out of it as DJ Mad Hatter. Whether he’s coordinating a 30-hour dance party at alma mater Northwestern University, programming the hottest hits on Radio Disney or providing soundtracks to tweens all over Los Angeles, if he can celebrate life through music, he will.

Welton, 33, has spent 15 years emceeing events and 10 years as a DJ in the United States, Israel, Africa and Europe. He enjoys entertaining large crowds but said even as an African American raised as a Christian, he actually prefers the bar and bat mitzvah circuit. During this past school year, he’s racked up at least one bar or bat mitzvah every weekend.

“[Kids] are crazy and rowdy,” he said. “That’s really what I love about it. To me, it’s something about the energy and the kids and my own personal energy. The music has changed a little. Ten years ago, we were jamming to some ‘High School Musical.’ Sometimes, I even get kids nowadays who want to listen to some of that old-school stuff, requesting old-school Miley [Cyrus].”

Welton said knowledge of what’s hot on the charts and what teens grew up listening to make for a better experience for them during each party. “I keep the party going. I wanna keep these kids dancing,” he said.

Or maybe it goes a little deeper than that. Welton recently discovered he has Jewish roots. Last year, with the help of a genealogy detective, he and his mother, Stacey, tracked down his long-lost Jewish grandfather and discovered he lives down the road in Tarzana.

“Last year, with the help of a DNA detective, Welton and his mother tracked down his long-lost Jewish grandfather and discovered he lives down the road in Tarzana.”

His mother took a DNA test kit, confirming she was Jewish, after her mother revealed to her shortly before she died in 2004 that her birth father was a white Jewish man. Welton said his mother always knew her birth father wasn’t black because she had lighter skin than her mother.

Welton, who was born and raised in Chicago, grew up knowing only his father’s side of the family. He rarely visited his mother’s family, who lived in Los Angeles. “All the ‘grands’ were pretty much nonexistent until last year, when my mom discovered her [birth father],” he said. “To me, I’ve had my mother and father, so that missing piece was for her.”

When Welton and his mother confirmed his Jewish grandfather, Jason, lived in Los Angeles, they reached out to him. Welton said Jason and his grandmother had a “1960s moment,” whereby Stacey was conceived. When his grandmother found out she was pregnant with Stacey, she never told Jason.

Jason and Adam enjoying a day at Dodger Stadium. Photo courtesy of Adam Welton

After learning the truth, Jason welcomed Welton, his mother and the rest of their family. Welton said it was an important moment because Jason was choosing to love an adult daughter and grandson. 

“For him to choose love, you know, at the end of the day, I was not expecting that,” he said. “I was expecting, ‘OK, he knew he had a kid. He didn’t want to stick around.’ But he chose love, and I can’t argue with that. All I can do is say ‘thank you.’ ”  

Welton said over the last year, his 73-year-old GrandPow (Jason) and his wife, Sandy, whom he calls “Yah-Yah,” have been incredibly welcoming to his family, including celebrating Hanukkah together.

“I just went to a Dodgers game with him and his friends, and it was a lot of fun,” Welton said. “It was me — a young, 33-year-old black guy — and three old white Jewish dudes. It was a lot of fun.”

Welton said he and his mother now proudly wear “hybrid” Star of David and cross necklaces, which he often gets asked about when he’s DJing bar and bat mitzvahs. He is excited to share this new part of his life with friends, family and clients. 

In addition, Welton said his Jewish spirit and knowledge of Jewish rituals has expanded thanks to his time spent DJing bar and
bat mitzvahs.

 “I’ve learned the ceremonial aspects and I’ve run the sound for some of the ceremonies, so I’ve sat down and listened,” he said. “It’s a lot of work these kids put in at such a young age, so the party element is more appreciative because I’ve seen [the work that goes into it].”