Interview with Nomi
February 01, 2002
88.7 FM WJCU
Jewish Community Radio: Okay this is Nomi Teplow, she is a resident of Israel and a former Clevelander and she just released a new album. Why donít you tell us about the new album.
Nomi: Okay well actually the album is in pre-release right now. This album is a recording of a choir that I conduct called Shir El and it included ten songs which some or which have words from Biblical sources and some of them are known Israeli songs. Some of the works are original. And thereís even one number where I sing with them and weíve done a remake of Madonnaís Like a Prayer with new words in Hebrew.
Jewish Community Radio: And that's been playing on Israel radio stations?
Nomi: Yes. This song was released recently and it's become quite a hit. Itís being played quite often. I heard from somebody. Somebody called me up to let me know that they heard one of the Israeli radio stations playing Madonna and interchanging it with my version, back and forth. My version uses the text Shema Yisrael, which has been the prayer that has keep us going through all these generations. The point of the piece is that life here is pretty stressful. I mean it's sort of roughly translating the text of the song, but basically life here is stressful and I'm opening my heart of G-d with a prayer and its Shema Yisrael. And then I go on to say how through every generation weíve been through so much and always the same prayer has been heard. Shema Yisrael. And what happens in the song is that I basically take the lead vocals and the choral part is strongly based on the original. Its very full harmony we have an arrangement that Moshe Wohl did. Heís the one that produced my album Kumi Ori which is still selling strong, thank G-d.
Jewish Community Radio: Can you tell us about the Shir El choir? Thatís religious and non-religious girls singing together?
Nomi: Well actually the Shir El choir is actually all religious girls. And the other choir that youíre referring to that they sang with on the Kumi Ori album also they met on another occasion that is the Efromi choir. The Shir El choir is a choir that I established in the girls high school in Kedumim called the Cheva about six years ago. We are now in our sixth year and we started recording a CD two years ago. It took two school years to actually complete the recording and the girls did a lot of preparation before then. I insisted on a high level. The girls had vocal training and musical training in terms of interpretation, and expression and you can really hear it on the CD. Iím very pleased with the results.
Jewish Community Radio: How old are they?
Nomi: These girls range from 8th grade to 12th. I don't take them in seventh. I figure they should have a year to get used to junior high school. And also the girls are not quite ready for this kind of work when they first hit junior high. But from the 8th grade and on already I start working them.
Jewish Community Radio: And you live near Kedumim?
Nomi: I live about fifteen minutes away from Kedumim. This is a regional high school that services all of the towns in the area. Girls come from probably a 45-minute radius around the school.
Jewish Community Radio: Now you also besides your music you wanted to talk about the situation in Israel. And maybe you could start by telling us how you came from Cleveland to the West Bank.
Nomi: Well I like to say that I live in the Shomron, in Samaria. The West Bank is a term that others have placed upon this area. But how did I do this? Well, first of all from Cleveland I came to Jerusalem for a year as a student I decided to spend a year as many of my friends did. Just concentrating on Torah and on Jewish study. And that was a wonderful year away and a year not only to learn but to get to know Israel and to tour the country.
After spending time coming back to the United States completing two degrees and of course, personally I met my husband, got married and he is also a very strong Zionist. And the two of us together decided that we wanted to move to Israel. And from the time we were married Ďtill the time we moved to Israel I believe six years had elapsed, we were constantly focused on moving. It affected how we made certain job decisions. It affected where we lived. And saving money as opposed to spending it so that weíd be able to come here and build a home and buy the necessary appliances for example, a car, as well to make the transition comfortable. And we basically followed that plan and in 1990 we moved to Israel.
Jewish Community Radio: What about the area in Israel you live in? Donít people say its dangerous?
Nomi: You know what, I think the whole world is dangerous right now. And itís interesting and Iím sure it might be a little difficult for somebody living outside of Israel to understand my perspective, but I actually feel a lot safer here then I do abroad at this point in time. Because I feel, first of all, terrorism is everywhere. And certainly in terms of living in Israel, I don't think that there's any corner of Israel thatís safer then anywhere else at this point. You could say, why aren't you in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Hadera, Affula? I mean, these are all places where there have been explosions and all kinds of damage done. In my area they're simply shooting at us.
Nomi: I think it's a question, first of all for me personally, it's a question of safe. Itís a question of like, Iíve come home. And this is where I'm going to stay and I'm not going to let terrorists or outside forces dictate where I will be personally, also dictate to me where my homeland is. I know where my homeland is. I know that inside of myself. So I do feel I am where I belong. In terms of whether or not I would feel safer in the United States, the truth is that I believe it's about a year ago when we last spoke when I was in the United States on a concert tour and I made a stop in Cleveland, and the truth is since that trip I havenít been back. I have really been focusing on my work here in Israel.
It started as, there are personal reasons, but also I felt because of the difficult times here, I felt that I really had a lot of work to do here. People need me here and they donít need me as much in the united states. And its more important for me to stay. And after I saw the crash of the World Trade Center, which was a horrible tragedy, I was very thankful that I didn't have outstanding contracts in the United States. Because I actually feel safer here then I feel right now flying around the United States.
Jewish Community Radio: What do you relatives and friends back here in Cleveland think about that?
Nomi: Whatís is interesting is that my parents actually are on their way here. In another month they will be spending several months here in Israel. So they are quite supportive. What interesting is that I think its difficult for somebody living in the United States to have a perspective of somebody living here.
People feel most comfortable with what theyíre familiar with. Home is home. And I think thatís also party of how I feel. Also for me having lived in Israel so many years. And having really threw my experience in moving from classical music to Jewish music and delving into text, all of these things have been an experience of spiritual growth for me. And frankly I feel also a spiritual connection to the land at this point eleven years after Iíve moved here, which is something somebody living outside of Israel may not feel at this point. Because it takes a long time to develop. Itís not a question of, all right, Iím visiting Israel for two weeks and suddenly I feel this. If you see what I mean.
Jewish Community Radio: Are you well known in Israel? I mean do people see you as a performer or a celebrity even? You said your album is selling very well.
Nomi: On the one hand, yes, and on the other hand my audience is limited to some degree because Iíve been focusing on Jewish music, Nekorot, or the biblical text, or on Israeli music that has a particular theme. Where there's some spirituality involved or love for the land of Israel and unfortunately in todayís Israel thereís still some black and white. Where if you are singing about love of G-d, it might be a threat to part of the population here in Israel. And I think things are beginning to change. But if I were singing love songs, then I would say I would have a more universal audience.
At this point in time Iím very well known in the religious audience, the religious radio stations, or even what called the Masorti, the traditional radio stations, are playing the music, I would say that the radio stations such as Reshet Gimmel or Reshet Bet will play me on specific programs. But its won't be the kind of thing that running every day as the secular music is. And that is a conscious decision that I made. To focus in this direction because this is where I whole and this is where I feel I can really give.
Jewish Community Radio: Speaking of the religious/secular, that leads into your other choir, the mixed religious secular choir.
Nomi: I never had a mixed choir. What I had was, I was working with two different choirs. And I would make it my business to get them together. To make sure that these girls had a chance to get acquainted. To try in my small microcosm, to break down some of the barriers.
And you know itís interesting, Iím finding today, weíve been going through a year of, not just what they call intifada, of violence, itís a year of confusion. People, and Iím, not going to get involved in politics, but as a whole I would say that the ordinary person feels that thereís confusion on the political level, and I think that it caused a lot of soul-searching. And I think that people are coming to the conclusion slowly but surely that it really is time to get together. And its not that anyoneís preaching to them. I speak to friends that are religious, who are non-observant, all kinds of people and everybody is doing their own form of soul searching. And Iím finding hat its really beginning to happen on its own. I just hope it continues.
Jewish Community Radio: When you talk about religious music, it reminds me of here in America, Christian music, is really big. In fact we have a new radio station in Cleveland that plays only Christian rock. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Nomi: Oh yeah. I think itís terrific. In truth, I remember probably a year ago, my mother sent me an article, it may have been about this station, in Cleveland. I donít remember where it was but it spoke about how Christian music, Christian rock music, is really becoming popular and I feel that at this point in time Iím quite the pioneer. It makes things difficult, but on the other hand, Iím seeing also budding for this kind of market, this kind of a genre. In Israel you know that Jewish music, especially when it comes directly from the Bible, traditionally has been limited to the Hasidic or yeshivish kind of genre, which is enjoyable but is limiting. And what Iím so happy to see right now is that, Israel they call it alterative Jewish music or original Jewish music. And there are all of these new artists cropping up. Most of them are men at this point. Iím still looking for more women to come and join me in the frontier. But it really is taking off and I just, I bless us all with this blessing that we should have the kind of, what they fall in Hebrew a breecha, a blossoming of this kind of music in our religion as well.
Jewish Community Radio: Are there any final words you want to say about what s going on in Israel or your music or your message?
Nomi: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to say so. First of all a personal note, what we do is we just keep on living. We keep going on. Every time I drive to work with either a choir or to go to a performance, I'm on the road and I'm on the road at night and itís like playing Russian roulette. And Iíve learned to just try to have faith and say, all right, this is what I have to do. I'm not going to give in. And I guess my message to everybody there is to say come and join us. Come visit. Donít be afraid. We would really love to see you. In fact there was a mission from Cleveland that was here a little while ago. About two hundred Clevelanders who came and they invited us all out for an evening of Clevelanders. I think there was about five hundred people there. It was wonderful. And I say, come again. Keep coming. We need you.
Jewish Community Radio: Thank you very much.
Nomi: Thank you and I look forward to seeing you in Israel.
Copyright 2003 Jewish Community Radio