Shalom Life | April 18, 2014

Exclusive Interview with Jewish Chicks Rock founder, Naomi Less

Naomi Less, founder of Jewish Chicks Rock, and a pop rock musician speaks to Shalom Life.

By: Nelly Lalany

Published: August 16th, 2011 in Culture » Music » Interviews

Exclusive Interview with Jewish Chicks Rock founder, Naomi Less

Naomi Less, a self-described Jew-vangelist with a Master’s degree in Education has been passionate about music ever since she can remember.

The Northwestern graduate took her zeal to the next level and set the stage for the aspiring young (Jewish) Gwen Stefani or Stevie Nicks with a program called “Jewish Chicks Rock”.

The program had its first pilot season this summer, and while it is mostly concentrated in the US, Less is excited for more growth as the program catches wind.

When I first called her, I didn’t expect her to sound so young, and talking with her felt more like a casual conversation than an interview.

The first (most obvious) question I asked definitely sounds cliché, but her jovial personality gave an answer nothing short of entertaining.

“I’ve been singing music ever since I can remember. My mom actually planted this memory in me, but I am pretty sure I remember. We went to go check out nursery schools, and apparently one of them, the director was interviewing and I thought that I had to audition… so I started signing a song from pop radio for her. Apparently I was good, I’m pretty sure I got into the school.”

After Northwestern, Less decided that she wanted to continue to pursue an education in giving other’s an education. Her experiences with teacher’s college at Jewish Theological Seminary and music education eventually blossomed into a place for young Jewish girls to grow, learn, and explore new talents…. as rock stars!

After calling herself a Jew-vangelist (Evangelist Jew), my first thoughts were, can she say that? I had to know more.

“Well basically it’s simple. In my perspective for anything in life if you are excited about something and it’s a deep part of your life that has touched you, and brings fulfillment and meaning to you, you’re going to inevitably share it. Why shouldn’t you share it? I feel very strongly about Judaism, it’s such a meaningful part of my life. It set me on a path of great morals and values, and really deeply caring for those who don’t have the same advantages and privileges as others. It has given me extreme spiritual progress in my life, and of course I’m going to share that out. I want people to find the way that Judaism speaks to them.”

Thus… “Jewish Chicks Rock”, at this point I ask her to talk to me a little about how the program combines a passion for religion and music.

“I wanted to work more in direct service with girls and focus on music as a way of doing that. I developed this idea Jewish Chicks Rock. First, I immersed myself in the Jewish rock field. There certainly aren’t as many women doing this work. So I put myself out there as a model for women, like ‘you can do this too!’. The idea is the same with the business world; if you don’t see women in a certain field you get the idea that it’s not open to them. I have the girls stand up and face the rest of the girls in the room, can they stand and deliver a message?”

Less facilitates a safe place to build life skills while pursuing a new talent, which can open several doors for girls who take an interest in music.

The program is designed to be a camp and/or after school program that incorporates rock music with Jewish values. In fact, she tells me that some of the songs are written based on the girls’ feelings about their faith.

Aside from being described as a role model, Less is a professional musician who describes her music as “pop-rock”. Her new album called “The Real Me” is available on iTunes.

“Thus far the music career is starting to take off, and I’m getting more attention, the product is great. It’s well-produced Jewish rock music. It has very strong messages about being yourself and standing up for your values, all framed within a Jewish context. I started to think from top-down I’m modeling [as a female Jewish rock singer] and now what can I do from bottom-up.”

Start a camp.

The pilot took place at Camp Louise in Cascade, Maryland. The program is described as a camp within a camp, which takes place over the course of four days. The girls are set up like a band, and they even have to audition!

“We set-up three bands that worked with us over the course of four days, and they gave a concert after those four days, and all of this work was done in a Jewish context. The music was infused with their own Jewish identity, and provides an outlet for them to express feelings about their faith.”

The hope is to spread as many as three after-school programs across America, and let the pilot’s success run its course.

I asked her how it feels to be seen as a role model.

She says, “You just have to walk your talk. For me it’s all the same I don’t change my personality or my values when I’m hanging out in a secular setting or when I’m working with Jewish kids. I slip up from time to time, and that’s part of the experience.”

An honest and fresh interview with a woman who makes being a role model look effortless. Hopefully, the “Jewish Chicks Rock” campaign will branch out to Canada as well, but until then you can follow her progress and listen to her music at www.jewishchicksrock.com.

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