BY MAXINE DOVERE
Achinoam Nini (“Noa”), one of Israel’s most accomplished cultural icons, will present an Evening of Song on Feb. 11 at the Free Synagogue of Flushing.
The announcement has generated hate mail and threats against the producer, the synagogue and the artist.
Moishe Rosenfeld, the president of Golden Land Concerts & Connections, for decades the go-to source for Jewish and Israeli entertainment, said, “This hateful campaign needs to be exposed for what it is: opposition to Noa’s support for a two-state solution, a position shared by most Israelis. Noa is a patriot, outspoken about her desire for a peaceful, secure future for her beloved Israel. Alan Brava’s courage in standing up for Israeli art and against intimidation is extraordinary.”
Alan Brava is executive director of the Free Synagogue of Flushing. He has produced synagogue and community concerts for decades, including four featuring Noa. Emails condemning the concert and disparaging Noa have flown to his desk since its announcement.
“Every email included the term ‘anti-Israel,’” said Brava, “and warned against having her perform.”
Achinoam Nini is a Sabra (native Israeli) of Yemenite Jewish background. Born in Tel Aviv, Noa grew up in New York in a “very Israeli home.” She attended SAR—Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy—a modern Orthodox Day school, returning to Israel at 16. After military service, she studied at Israel’s Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, where she met songwriting partner and musical collaborator Gil Dor. Nini is married to Dr. Asher Barak and is the mother of three.
Noa represents Israel around the world. She has performed at the White House, in the Vatican and in Davos; and has written and produced hundreds of songs and recorded the theme song for the Oscar-winning film Life Is Beautiful. She has sung with Sting, Stevie Wonder Andrea Bocelli and dozens of international artists. On Nov. 4, 1995, Noa was on stage with P. M. Yitzhak Rabin moments before the fatal shooting.
Noa believes, “Israeli artists who perform abroad invariably carry a message of peace, culture and art. There are so many people in our country who believe in peace…and on the other side of the border, too. Every human being who wants to live in peace must work for it.
You can’t expect people to do the work for you….I’m a singer, so I sing for peace. As for artists boycotting Israel, I am absolutely against that. [Israel] is a pluralistic place, a diverse place. Turning your back on Israel and not playing here plays directly into the hands of the extremists. Not coming here is making the situation much, much worse.”
Rosenfeld calls Noa “one of Israel’s most illustrious singers, an iconic part of Israeli culture.…Noa’s music sheds light on Israeli culture, diversity, beauty and depth,” noting that she received the blessing of Shimon Peres.
“Saying she is not patriotic or pro- Israel is libelous.…There has to be a loud counter voice that tells the truth! When false things are said, they can gain momentum: Everyone not in favor of kicking out Arabs or destroying Israeli democracy is considered an enemy. There’s a small right-wing coalition representing special interests.”
Rosenfeld said that threats of demonstrations and disruptions have caused concerts to be canceled. In 2017, Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, a suburb of Detroit, canceled a concert by Noa, claiming it was a safety precaution.
“Our security advisers have concluded that based on these threats, there was a high potential for disruption to the concert.”
Another community did not cancel.When local support was withdrawn from a Vancouver concert, the Jewish National Fund and the Israeli Embassy in Ottawa replaced the original sponsors.
Writing in The Times of Israel, Noa stated, “I never mix politics and music. This act of silencing is part of a larger, sinister current in modern culture.… This is a crucial moment. By caving to a handful of bullies, Adat Shalom provided the aggressors with a great victory, empowering them and paving the way for the next round of threats, lies, intimidation and violence.”
“The community has to stand up to bulliers and this BDS-style campaign against Noa,” said Rosenfeld. “How would the great leaders of Israel feel about allowing bullies to silence voices ? This concert is a great event that should be celebrated by the whole community. Alan Brava is a patriot—a patriotic American, a patriotic Jew. It’s easier to cancel than to be principled like Alan Brava.”
Brava is a cantor who “adores Noa’s musicality.” He produced four “Noa” concerts in the Boston area.
“She has bloomed—become a world music personality,” Brava said. “When she arrives in Italy or Asia, it’s like the arrival of the Beatles!
Noa is a messenger of peace. She represents the best Israel has to offer, understanding what it means to try to compromise. When the story of Israeli culture is written, Noa will play a role for the work she has done for Israel. She is coming to celebrate Judaism and Israel, and looks forward to being part of a united community, the family of the Jewish people.
“Her career takes her to every continent. She could move anywhere,” Brava continued. “Who else other than lovers of Israel, lovers of peace, messengers of peace…would send their child to protect a land so holy?” [Her son, Ayehli, soon begins his service with Tzahal—the Israel Defense Forces.]
“I stand determined, resolved to let nothing disrupt the concert or silence the message and work to which Noa has dedicated her life,” Brava said. “People need to understand that supporting Noa and going to the concert is an act of coming together as a community.”