Noa wows crowd at the Touhill


St. Louis’s monumental symbol became “Noa’s Arch” last Tuesday as Israel’s most popular singer-songwriter was warmly received by more than 1,200 people who came to hear her concert at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

“Noa in Concert” was a major communitywide event of Kaleidoscope Israel, a year-long series of events commemorating the 60th anniversary of Israel’s independence.


Known in Israel by her given name Achinoam Nini and internationally as Noa, she is Israel’s leading global concert and recording artist. Her biography evokes the eclectic yet universal nature of both Israeli society, where Jews from 110 nations have become citizens of the Jewish State, as well the Diaspora.

Her parents and grandparents were multi-generation Jews in Yemen. The family made aliyah to Israel, and Noa was born in Tel Aviv in 1969. Noa lived in New York City from the age of 2 until her return to Israel alone at the age of 17. After serving in the Israeli Army for two years in a military entertainment unit, Noa studied music at the Rimon School, where she met her long-time partner and collaborator Gil Dor, who was part of her on-stage ensemble during her concert.

Kaleidoscope Israel’s volunteer leadership is truly a family affair. Overall chairs of Kaleidoscope are the family of Paul and Diane Gallant, their children Steve and Amy Gallant and their grandsons Richie and Tommy Gallant.

Chairs of “Noa in Concert” were the family of Nancy and Al Siwak, Gianna Jacobson and Todd Siwak; Stacy and Greg Siwak; Roger Siwak and Erin and Steve Schuver. Michael Staenberg, chairman of the Jewish Community Center and community leader and benefactor, served as honorary chair of the concert event.

“On behalf of the entire Siwak family, Nancy and our family are honored to be here with you to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary,” said Al Siwak in his comments at the concert. “Israel is a unique nation, rich with culture, high tech, cutting edge engineering and medicine. Israel has developed desalinization techniques that benefit the entire world. Israel has more universities and museums per capita than any other nation in the world,” he continued.

Nancy Siwak, a past president of the Jewish Federation said, “We are so pleased to be a part of this wonderful event, and to be looking out at a full house. Last week was quite exciting with KaleidoFest at the JCC, where we shared the solemnity of Israel’s Memorial Day for the fallen soldiers and then sang and danced to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary.”

Siwak continued, “We want to thank the Lubin-Green Foundation for generously sponsoring the community Kaleidoscope Israel festivities and the Noa Concert, and we thank Tom and Karole Green who are here tonight. We also want to thank Michael Staenberg for being an active honorary chair, and the Staenberg Family Foundation for its generous sponsorship of Kaleidoscope Israel’s KaleidoFest activities.”

Nancy Siwak added, “When Linda Kraus, president of the Central Agency for Jewish Education, asked the Gallant Family to chair the entire Kaleidoscope Israel program, they enthusiastically accepted without hesitation. They have truly given their all, and we thank Diane and Paul, Amy and Steve and Richie and Tommy. We also want to thank the CAJE staff for its support, especially Sonia Dobinsky, Karen Rader and Joan Wolchansky for their tremendous help. Toda raba!”

In introducing Noa to the large audience, Nancy Siwak pointed out that her career spans 18 years, with the release of 12 albums, including her latest, Genes and Jeans, from which she sang some selections. Noa has performed for the Pope, presidents and prime ministers. She has also collaborated and shared the stage with many artists, including Sheryl Crow, George Benson and Donovan. She has often been compared to Celine Dion but has said that Joan Baez is a major influence on her work.

Noa interspersed her impressive and moving songs with warm comments about how pleased she was to be entertaining in Missouri and to be taking part in a celebration of Israel’s 60th anniversary. She reflected on her new album, Genes and Jeans, and how it pays tribute to her Yemenite grandmother, to her New York City upbringing, and to her renewed life in Israel, where she has become one of its most popular entertainers. In addition to Joan Baez, Noa traces her influences to Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. “The ‘Genes’ part of the album title expresses my roots in the very traditional Yemenite Jewish society, where Jews and women are very limited by custom and discrimination. The ‘Jeans’ expresses my roots in America and Israel, where Jewish women can wear ‘jeans’ and are free to be themselves,” she said.

Noa’s talents are many-layered, including a mastery of guitar, piano and percussion. She plays percussion not only on Conga drums, but on her chest, to the delight and astonishment of the audience.

Genes and Jeans, from which Noa performed selections, was recorded for the Decca Label Group by Noa and Dor in her home studio in Shefayim, just north of Tel Aviv. Included is a wide-ranging mix of styles and sensibilities, including Dala Dala, which features a recording of Noa’s grandmother, Rachel Nini, singing a cappella to open the song followed by Noa’s updated version of the same song. A romantic song, The Eyes of Love, is dedicated to her father. The title track, Genes and Jeans, merges with a Yemenite folk song and a new melody by Noa and Dor and is a tribute to Noa’s mother. “The lyric plays on the ‘genes’ I carry everywhere and the ‘jeans’ I wear, my mother’s style, and my own,” Noa said.

Noa inspired her large and appreciative audience at the Blanche M. Touhill Center for the Performing Arts to “soar with her.” Her performance received a sustained standing ovation and a demand for an encore which she delivered with verve, gusto and feeling to cap off her memorable performance.

Diane Gallant, speaking for the Kaleidoscope Israel Committee, said, “In our publicity about Noa’s concert, we kept saying, ‘To Noa Is To Love Her.’ That certainly was more than just a clever promotional blurb. She was all that we expected her to be and much, much more. We thank the Siwak Family for chairing this wonderful event, along with the Lubin-Green Foundation and the Staenberg Family Foundation, the Jewish Federation and the lay and professional leadership of CAJE for making this wonderful evening celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary a wonderful reality and the fulfillment of a dream. “