Last month, JTA published an article about Israeli kiosk workers at American shopping malls. The article, which noted that the U.S. Embassy in Israel is trying to crack down on the practice, implied that Rami Feinstein, an American-born Israeli singer, had worked illegally in the United States.
In fact, Feinstein is a U.S. citizen. Born in New York, Feinstein moved with his parents to Israel at age 2. He was raised in Ranaana, home to a large American emigrant community, and later in Sha’are Tikva. He now lives in Tel Aviv.
Descended from a family of poets and writers — his grandfather was a poet who founded an educational institute in New York; his playwright father founded a theater, Habima Haketana, also in New York — Feinstein began composing songs as a teenager. His first album was released in 2008, financed in part with the money he made working in the United States. The song "Something Amazing" was inspired by the experience of selling’s cosmetics in shopping malls.
His second album came out last year. One song, "Yom Gadol," has been adopted as an anthem by the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball club.
"The whole concept of making it is something that i’ve been exploring," Feinstein said by phone from Israel. "It’s something that I deal with a lot in my last album. There’s a certain tension between wanting the biggest dreams on one hand at the same time learning how to appreciate the accomplishments that you are having right here and right now. And sometimes it’s hard to do both."
Musically, Feinstein operates mainly in the singer-songwriter mode. Dave Matthews, John Mayer, Jason Mraz and Paul Simon are all acknowledged influences. But Feinstein can also get funky. "Yom Gadol" features a full band and horns and some nice groovework.
Unlike some Jewish artists intent on achieving mainstream success, Feinstein doesn’t shy from his roots. When he tours in the United States, he performs in synagogues as well as clubs. And when Nefesh B’Nefesh approached him about writing a song to encourage immigration to Israel, he readily agreed.
"I’m very Zionist," Feinstein said. "For me, to come and perform in the States — it’s not just a different gig in a different country. It’s something that has meaning. I have no problem identifying with that. I’m not a musician that needs to be categorized as a cosmopolitan. I’ve been in a lot of places. I think that music is definitely something that connects people all over the world. But I also have no problem in sharing the group that I belong to."
Feinstein will be in the United States in late April and will be performing at several Israel Independence Day events.