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Arise, Arise: A New Wave of Jewish Women Musicians

Yesterday I attended a workshop on themes of social justice in Jewish music. I was given a music packet that included songs by Bob Dylan, Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul, and Mary), Pete Seeger, Jeff Klepper, the stud-of-a-Jewish-Rockstar Rick Recht, and E18hteen (the modern Jewish rock band founded by Dan Nichols). "E18hteen" sings that catchy song "Kehilah, Kedoshah" which is all the rage in Reform Jewish camps (I'm not going to lie -- I dig this song despite its cheesiness).

Disturbingly, there was only one woman included in the packet of Jewish social justice singer-songwriters. Can you guess who she is? That's right: Debbie Friedman (coincidentally, today is the 13th anniversary of Debbie Friedman's 1996 sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall). While Debbie Friedman may be the best known and most influential female singer-songwriter in the world of Jewish social justice-themed music, and while she's certainly had an extraordinary impact on Jewish experience in the United States (particularly in the Reform Movement), she isn't the only American Jewess in the Jewish music scene. Indeed, there are plenty of younger female Jewish musicians shaking up today's music in new, creative ways with Jewish social justice messages expressed through their lyrics and performance styles. To name a few:

Basya Schechter, founder of Pharaoh's Daughter, blends Hasidic chants, Mizrachi and Sephardi folk melodies, and music from Central Africa, Turkey, Kurdistan and Greece in ways that bridge the divide between religious and secular Jewish expression.

Jewlia Eisenberg, founder of the radical, punky group Charming Hostess, explores the relationship between Jewish text, the female body, sex, and the rich traditions of the Babylonian Jews.

Louisa Rachel Solomon, co-founder and bassist of The Shondes - a queer Jewish political punk band - composes and performs songs about peace in Israel/Palestine.

Naomi Less, "Jewess-Empowerer Extraordinare," performs gender justice-themed songs at Jewish organizational gatherings, encouraging Jewish girls to raise their voices louder than her own.

Sandy Opatow of Emma's Revolution (named for none other than the revolutionary Emma Goldman), sings about gender justice, global human rights, and peace in the Middle East. (You might not know that "Emma's Revolution" created the "Peace, Salaam, Shalom" T-shirt, born out of their song "Peace, Salaam, Shalom")

Sarah Mina Gordon, a Yiddish lyricist and singer, co-directs "Yiddish Princess," a project that blends traditional Yiddish music with American power-pop ballads of the 1980s. (How cool is that?!)

Who else is out there?

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9 Comments

LEERONELeerone is the musical equivalent of an ice cream sundae with a vodka chaser. On her Facebook page she describes her music as "Indie-folk-rock-experimental-theatrical-feisty-music-that-comes-from-a-real-place".Over the course of her inspired career, Leerone has triumphantly upended pop conventions while hewing to the great singer-songwriter traditions of her Los Angeles forebears (think Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell and Randy Newman, to name a distinguished few). Now, on the heels of her two EPs, Leerone delivers her most vivid, most wide-ranging recording to date, Imaginary Biographies, wherein the LA singer-songwriter employs her formidable composing, performing and arranging skills to further advance a fiercely independent artistic vision.YAEL MAYERYael Meyer a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, was born in Santiago de Chile and moved to the United States at 19 to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Giving in to a much deeper appreciation for sound and the power it has to change every living and non living thing, she became convinced that music is indeed a powerful tool towards generating a much more loving, understanding, peaceful and respectful world. http://www.myspace.com/yaelmey... GUTMAN is a hip hop MC, based in Jerusalem, sheÌ¢‰â‰ã¢s a tireless performer, extremely talented, very entertaining and committed to her craft. SheÌ¢‰â‰ã¢s also a practicing Orthodox Jewess. In a field full of men, like Matisyahu, Y-Love and almost everyone associated with Shemspeed, she stands out as lone female voice sanctifying Judaism through rap. Performing her music mainly in Israel, she is now a rising star and uses words and rhythm to convey her thoughts on everything from the state of western culture to Hasidic tales. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Award winner, live and direct from England, SISTA WARRIOR, exploring reggae vibes and expressing her Jewish roots through original lyrics. A great live act. LATEST CD entitled HIP HOP WOMAN and her debut CD VALIENT WOMAN can be heard @ www.myspace.com/sistawarrior2 and www.cdbaby.com/sistawarrior as featured on the Israelie Rasta Reggae Site www.irielion.com

Nomi Teplow - American born and raised, living in Israel - is a brilliant female vocalist! She sings Jewish and Israeli music. Check her out at www.nomiteplow.co.il or on youtube - www.youtube.com/nomisong.

Hey, As a newbie to the frum world I tend to get quite enthusiastic about most things torah and even halacha... however I had a huge issue with women's only music in that it was, generally, not so good, who I am kidding, gigs left me tearful as 'heartfelt' and 'moving' left me running screaming from the shows I'd been cajouled into attending with my sem friends and Jlem buddies. Until one night when, quite unsuspectingly, I found a singer who can actually sing! Don't take my word for it, ask anyone there, no-one spoke a word from her first note to her last. Delia Spiers (now Bueno de Mesquita, she got married in Nov, mazal tov!) is a BT (unsuprisingly) from the UK who once trod the boards of Jazz clubs and acoustic venues singing with her unique blend of pure innocence, unnerving honesty and raw emotion. Ok, I read that on a review online, except it's true! I would love to hear from others who've seen her and those who have yet to, she's seriously great, amazing actually. The pixie haired songstress can be heard here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/delia... where her vocal only album is available to buy... MP3 only as she sold out of the hard copies last year! also try: http://www.myspace.com/kolisha... http://www.myspace.com/deliasp... and Itunes :) ooh, and facebook of course! Delia Bueno de Mesquita. ez peeps, let me know what you think! Sara G

Hiphop divas Noa Golansky and Yael Kraus of the Na'arot Ha-Livui (Escort Girlz), Yahli Toren of Bayit Shlishi (Third Temple), Maya Dunietz, experimental composer, pianist and founder of the Givol Choir, and Rona Kenan, folk and pop singer.

i just saw sarah gordon and yiddish princess last week in ny and they were amazing!

Don't forget the amazing lefty Jewish Israeli women who deal with social issues in their kickass bands: Hiphop divas Noa Golansky and Yael Kraus of the Na'arot Ha-Livui (Escort Girlz) Yahli Toren of Bayit Shlishi (Third Temple) Maya Dunietz, experimental composer, pianist and founder of the Givol Choir Rona Kenan, folk and pop singer Victoria Hanna, not political, but she's so great.

Peace, Jewlia Eisenberg

Chana Rothman! She's a slightly rapping, mostly singing reggae-fied former Reform youth group songleader and recording artist and she's a rebbetzin! She's great. See my post on her and a video of her here.

Amy Tobin, an amazing chanteuse, has written 2 fabulous rock operas - one about Lilith and the other about Esther. Both have toured and both feature fabulous takes on both women. Download her music on itunes or check out her website - amytobin.com

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How to cite this page

Namerow, Jordan. "Arise, Arise: A New Wave of Jewish Women Musicians." 7 January 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on October 18, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog/new-wave-of-jewish-women-musicians>.

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