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  • Writer's pictureJews of NY team

Meet the Hip Hop 'Eshet Chayil'!

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

Catch up with our previous blogs here!

Meet Lea Kalisch, a Jewish NYC-based actress and singer, she was born and raised in Switzerland in a traditional Jewish family who, unlike most Jewish or Swiss families, served the most epic orange chocolate cake from the fanciest Swiss patisserie called “Sprüngli” at every shabbat dinner, which is why Lea has an addiction for anything chocolaty. She studied musical theater at @AmdaOfficial and received her BFA from @TheNewSchool.

Lea starred in several off-Broadway Yiddish plays. In venues across NYC, Lea has performed a staged version of “Eshet Chayil of Hip Hop” featuring rap, beatbox, and dance alongside Yoav Hougui. Lea currently performs her one-woman show “In Love With A Dream!”, showcasing original material that spans from aggressive English rap to sultry Yiddish blues.

With her provocative debut music video, “Eshet Chayil of Hip Hop,” Lea Kalisch presents a

transgressive 21st-century update on the traditional Jewish song Eshet Chayil (Woman of Valor). As she clashes together the seemingly unrelated worlds of hip hop and hasidism, Kalisch reveals that these male-dominated arenas share an equally urgent need for feminist critique and the empowerment of women’s voices.

“My interpretation of Eshet Chayil is a call to artistic and cultural freedom, proclaiming that each of us can embrace multiple cultures and disparate passions,” Kalisch says.

Filmed on the urban streets of New York City and the holy footpaths of Jerusalem, “Eshet Chayil of Hip Hop” is a mashup on many levels. The lyrics feature English, Hebrew, German and Yiddish. By blending rap, middle eastern sounds, klezmer, and a touch of musical theater, the music captures the multi-cultural zeitgeist. Lea’s clashing appearance—an ultra-orthodox man’s furred hat (shtreimel) contrasting with permissive streetwear and dazzling bling-bling—exposes how clothing norms in both cultures objectify

and limit women.

“I sing in tribute, not only to the Jewish woman, but to all women, in the hope that we can embrace our womanhood free from the limits of conventional aesthetics.”

The music of “Eshet Chayil of Hip Hop” was produced and arranged by Israeli Swiss music producer @EnatVentura, and the video was directed by Israeli actress/director @EinatPropper.

The music video debuted January 30th on Lea’s YouTube channel.

Lea answered our @Jews_of_NY quarantine questionnaire:

1. What does your quarantine schedule look like?

My schedule is all over the place and I've actually been quite busy so far. I am virtually teaching dance classes to orthodox girls in Crown Heights, and finally I'm doing online Ulpan every day for 3 hours- something I've been wanting to do forever. I'm also playing piano, eating a lot, playing a lot of tennis, and making funny IG quarantine videos to stay sane.

2. What’s your favorite spot in your apartment?

My backyard and the curtains to my bedroom. I am currently staying with my boyfriend in Minneapolis, where we have a lovely backyard- great for workouts and nice lunches in the sun and we have these amazing curtains separating the bedroom from the living room, which make the perfect stage backdrop for my IG videos.

3. What’s your favorite quarantine binge food?

Oyyy:) anything that I see in my kitchen!! I am eating all the time. But lately I am eating a lot of carrots (soon I am turning into a rabbit:) because we get these AMAZINGLY sweet carrots from Imperfect Foods delivered. And I eat tons of sweets- but that is also the case when I am not quarantined:) Thank god I'm moving a lot.

4. What’s your favorite Jewish/ Yiddish word during this time?

Every Yiddish word is amazing at all times!!!!

"nebekh" - it's just SUCH a good word at ALL TIMES. I think of all the old people who are stuck alone in their homes- it's nebekh. To be honest, it is worse than nebekh, because nebekh carries a hint of humor. -"musband" , this word is not in the Jewish dictionary YET- Leah Forster invented the word (its abbr. for "my husband") I started calling my boyfriend "musband"

5. What are you binge watching at this time?

To be honest: Nothing- I prefer being on my feet. BUT of course I watched @Unorthodox.Netflix- I auditioned for it, and many NYC Yiddish actor friends are in it.

6. How do you spend Shabbat?

During this weird time Shabbat actually doesnt feel that much different from all the other days, it all becomes kind of blurry. But since my boyfriend is a rabbi, we do have some nice routines like having a Friday night shabbat service on Zoom, followed by a nice meal (accompanied by shitty Kedem grape juice, which I love). We don't drive or buy stuff on shabbat and conclude with a musical Havdalah on Zoom.

7. What has living through this coronavirus pandemic taught you?

To be thankful. Thankful that I'm in a privileged position during this time period. Thankful for all this TIME I'm suddenly given, time without the fear of missing out. Thankful for the simplest little things like an hour of sunshine and a tasty dinner. And very importantly, I am learning that I can find inspiration and creativity within myself, that I don't need the constant external stimulation that NYC offers 24/7.

8. What do you miss most from your pre-Coronavirus life?

I miss physical connection with people--sharing and bouncing off their energies. I am an extravert, I need a certain daily dose of interaction with people, it gives me energy. I miss going to synagogue and hugging my people and shabbat dinners. I miss salsa dancing, going to a cafe or to a fun audition.

9. 3 IG pages that are successful with taking your mind of things:

1.@LeahForster is the BEST!! The funniest, Jewish comedian on the planet. I am obsessed with her.

2.@Revlatina is an arts organization that right now offers free dance classes of all styles through IG and Zoom.

3.@Chris.bloom_ is a German life coach. He posted the best video on self-worth (he compared self-worth to the worth of a 50 Euro bill)


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