Four Essentials for Jewish Chick Rockers

Rachel Shaina Bernstein

Naomi Less, founder of Jewish Chicks Rock, is not on the JDub Records label, but we had to include this inspiring musician who is paving the way for Jewish girls.

by Rachel S. Bernstein

“Arts are meant to instigate. Arts are meant to open up questions and to sometimes be a mirror for people to see themselves in,” says Naomi Less, founder of Jewish Chicks Rock. Her particular mission is to hold that mirror up to young Jews and dispel negative stereotypes of Jewish women. “I wanted to put out a statement that says, ‘We rock! We’re amazing!'” she says, “and all of us in our diversity represent an incredible, tribal culture that maybe you’ve categorized negatively in the past. Reclaim the fact that you’re a Jewish woman; that rocks, and there’s depth to it.”

It all started three years ago when Less surveyed the music scene, especially the Jewish music scene, and noticed a male-dominated atmosphere that “doesn’t always lend itself to being so girl-friendly.” Less sought to fix this gender imbalance by encouraging pre-teen and teen girls to pick up electric instruments and create music—and she did it in two distinct ways. First, she formed a band—Jewish Chicks Rock—to produce music that is “progressive, edgy, pop, listener-friendly rock,” the kind that pre-teens and teens are listening to on their iPods. While she’s up on stage, she uses her empowering lyrics to teach girls how to “grow up more resilient and with more confidence,” Less says.

Examples of her songs: “Meshuga’at” (Hebrew for “crazy” in the feminine form) is a song about the tight bonds we have with our girlfriends; the lyrics include, “You will always be the one that I call / it doesn’t matter / anywhere or anytime at all.” There’s also her song “The Real Me,” about being yourself, which includes the lyrics, “I don’t hear what they tell me to be / I’ve got something more than what you want to see / I’m gonna show you what this girl is about/ I’m gonna show you this one’s the real me.”

In addition to performing, Less hopes to provide the much-needed gateway for girls to become Jewish Chick Rockers themselves with workshops that try to “encourage girls to come into a safe space, try instruments, and see if something sticks.” Less tours the country for these workshops, visiting Jewish schools, youth groups, camps, and youth conferences. For her, this programming is essential because “we need to teach girls to not wait for that invitation to make music,” but to just start doing it on their own.

So what are the essential qualities of a Jewish Chick Rocker, according to Naomi Less?

1. You’ve got something to say and you’re not afraid to say it. This is true whether it’s through your music or through the words that you write. You have to have a love for questions about, and an exploration of, your Jewish identity, and that comes out through your music; and that invites other people into that investigation of their own Jewish identity. Because you’re an artist, you’re sharing the way you see the world, and that enables more people to have conversations and tap into their own Jewish identity.

2. Have major attitude. This does not imply the kind of negative, stereotypical, self-centered attitude some rockers are known for, but an attitude that you like to play with others, you like to express yourself, and your music and self-expression is not at the expense of other people. Instead, this rocker attitude and music should be used to open up a conversation with others.

3. Take risks. There’s a small risk involved in grabbing the microphone and making up sounds, but don’t wait for the invitation. A Jewish Chick Rocker is okay with taking risks and knowing that some stuff’s going to flop, but that’s cool because it’s all about learning. Hey, when you get up on stage and use your voice, you could be creating new Jewish prayers.

4. Amplify your life. Clearly, a Jewish Chick Rocker likes volume; they like to plug in. So, when you pick up that electric instrument, don’t be afraid to turn that volume way up.

For more information about Naomi Less and Jewish Chicks Rock, and to hear music samples, please visit www.naomiless.com. For information about concerts, program booking, and starting a Jewish Chicks Rock program in your area, contact Naomi at naomiless@gmail.com.

About the Author

Rachel Shaina Bernstein
Rachel Shaina Bernstein is a graduate student at Brandeis University where she recently completed a joint M.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies. This fall she will begin her doctoral work at Brandeis in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Sociology. Her research interests include contemporary Jewish culture and the arts.

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