Twelve finalists from around the world will perform at the third annual "A Jewish Star" signing competition on March 19th in New York City. The contest is an opportunity for Jewish musicians to express themselves in a Jewish themed singing contest.
The man behind the scenes is the soft spoken organizer and advertising executive Yossi Soffer. Together with his wife Mica, they arranged the judges, performance, website presence and voting procedures. Soffer spoke to Arutz Sheva's music department about the show.
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The 8 adult finalists and 4 junior finalists were narrowed down from 17 semifinalists. They hail from Israel, the United States, Belarus, Mexico and South Africa. Other countries represented by the contestants have been France, Ajerbaijan, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Australia and other locations. Prizes include a two-year lease on a new car and $5,000.
Soffer says that several contestants have pledged to give a significant amount of the prize money to charity if they win. Others plan to use the money to fund a professional album or music video as a way to jump start a music career. Last year's junior competition winner, 13-year-old Yisroel Amar, released his debut full length CD two weeks ago.
Another contestant from out-of-town called up two weeks before rehearsals and said he didn't have the funds for the plane flight. "His entire community collected money for him to make his dream come true," Soffer stated. "We have ups and down like a roller coaster."
There were 115 contestants for the 2012 competition. Over 500,000 votes were cast online, an upswing from 262,000 votes in 2011. "There is a lot of talent and they are all very good," Soffer said. He related a comment that one of the producers told him he was happy he would not have to attempt to make the final decision.
Other entries include slow ballads and faster paced tunes in Hebrew, English and smattering of Yiddish. Hasidic songs and Mizrachi style melodies were submitted. The organizers of "A Jewish Star" interviewed each judge about their thoughts on the competition and the state of Jewish music.
His daughter Riki Green was interviewed as well. She stated, "I think for someone to be a Jewish star, he really has to mean what he's singing. I think the purpose can't be just to be famous, because people that do that, in my opinion, don't really make it."
So what exactly is Jewish music? "That's the million dollar question," Soffer replied. "Everyone has a different answer. Music in general, is a very powerful thing. If the artists is putting all his heart into the song, then you feel it, and if it's coming from Kedusha (holiness), then you will connect to Kedusha."