Q&A with rising musician Noah Levine


Image taken by Cass Anderson

Katie Wallace, Junior, Parkway West High School

Noah Levine, also known as Noah in the Open, is a talented 20-year-old Jewish singer/songwriter from Austin, Texas. In addition to making his own music, he has recently been touring with folk-pop singer Noah Kahan, who is also Jewish, as his lead guitarist. I recently spoke with Levine about the tour, growing up Jewish and combating antisemitism.

How has the tour been so far?

It’s been great. It’s been a complete change of my life since September. Navigating it as I go, but it’s been a dream.

Do you think you connected more easily with Noah Kahan because you’re both Jewish?

I think there are a lot of factors into what he and I connect with, but I do think there’s a whole different category of connecting with people when you find somebody else [who is] Jewish. It’s like a mutual understanding of hardships and a similar culture growing up. So, when I meet somebody else who’s also Jewish, I think there’s an added layer of connection there. So [our shared religion] probably had a little bit of an effect on [our connection], but, just in general, there’s another layer of connection with [other Jews].

I noticed you’ve been wearing a Star of David necklace while on tour. Where did you get the necklace, and what is its significance to you?

My aunt is a rabbi, and she picked it up for me on her last trip to Israel. Judaism has been a strong part of my upbringing. I grew up going to temple and Sunday school, and I went to URJ camp every summer. It’s really been a part of something that has shaped who I am and my personality, and, especially in today’s day and age, I think it’s more important than ever to be able to wear [Judaism] proudly and not be afraid.

What is the significance of Judaism to you?

 [Judaism has] had more of a social-cultural impact on me. I grew up going to URJ camp in Indiana. I made some of my best friends there, [and we] really connected through Judaism. That camp specifically is a very music-heavy, singing-heavy camp. So, I was able to combine and integrate my music, [which] has always been a big part of my life, and Judaism and learn how to function as a human being [along the way]. I was living in a cabin with 12 other boys, and there’s just a whole lot of character-building that I credit to the URJ camps like that. 

Have you ever faced any antisemitism?

Yeah, I grew up in Texas. A lot of places in the south are not as exposed to cultures other than their own, so I sort of grew up thinking that to be treated differently for my religion was a norm. As I would talk and make friends with other people in other places, I quickly realized that that’s not a normal thing and shouldn’t have been happening. Antisemitism has been pretty normal growing up for me.

How do you combat antisemitism?

I have no tolerance for it now. You know, I used to because I thought it was the norm when I was younger. People would tell me to learn how to take a joke, be able to laugh at it and that it was in the past, so that’s how I was sort of forced to operate for a while. After really seeing the rest of the world and learning a lot more about the history of the Holocaust and the history of our people, [antisemitism] is something I really don’t have any tolerance for. I make it very known that that’s not something I’m comfortable with if somebody thinks they can joke about that with me.

Have you been to Israel?

I have, in the summer of 2019, I believe. It was one of the best trips of my life. It was beautiful. You know, growing up going to temple and Sunday school, Israel always seemed like a fake place, something that was only in fables and fairy tales. I went there, and it was interesting to see [a place] you’ve been told all your life supposedly happened right here. It’s very powerful, and the people there are so nice and wonderful. I am trying to go back as soon as possible.

Do you have any advice for Jewish teens on how to embrace being Jewish?

The biggest thing for me is to stay proud of who you are. I wear my Jewish star at every show, and the crowds are just getting bigger and bigger. I’m very aware that, by wearing it, I opened myself up to potential criticism and hate from people who don’t like our people. I think it’s more important now than ever to be able to be proud of [being Jewish].