An off-the-cuff suggestion from a friend that he send an audition tape to the
Hallelujah 2011 singing competition proved to be a life-changing remark for
21-year-old Mexican singer Adam Kleinberg.
The dreadlocked winner of the
international Jewish singing contest held last August in Ramat Hasharon has not
only just released his first single – a duet with Israeli vocalist Momi Levy on
Meir Banai’s classic “Geshem” – but he’s in the final stages of packing his bags
on the way to making aliya.
“It’s been hectic – that’s a good word for
it,” said Kleinberg with a laugh, describing the past year during a call from
his home in Mexico City last week.
Kleinberg, whose great-grandmother was
David Ben-Gurion’s first cousin, was one of hundreds of aspiring stars who
answered the appeal for Jewish youth, age 16-26, to choose a song in their
native language or Hebrew and upload their performance onto YouTube. Based on
his version of “Lo Kal” by Hayehudim, he was chosen to compete against 29 other
finalists representing Jewish communities from Israel, the US, Canada, Mexico,
Brazil, Russia, France, Australia, Argentina, Sweden, The Netherlands, Belgium,
the UK, Turkey, Costa Rica and Uruguay.
Upon winning the Hallelujah
title, he was crowned the “Jewish Idol” and received an $8,000 cash prize, the
opportunity to record the duet with an Israeli singer and a tour of Jewish
But what Kleinberg didn’t expect from the 20 days
he spent with the other contestants before the finals touring the country and
learning about Israel was the added prize of the turbo boost to propel him to
“I’ve been a Zionist all my life ever since I joined the
Habonim Dror youth movement in Mexico,” he said, “so I’ve always talked about
Israel and making aliya. But being there for the contest made me feel more
connected to the country and made me want to move there. I just love the
atmosphere, and it’s where I want to be.”
Following a return trip to
Israel in December to record “Geshem” with Levy and producer Tzvika Kogan,
Kleinberg began to put the aliya wheels in motion and expects to return as an
Israeli in April to continue pursuing his music career.
“I hope to study
at the Rimon School of Music and to make Israeli music,” he
Although aliya might not have been on the minds of the contestants
who were chosen among hundreds of applications for the song contest, according
to the Hallelujah competition’s founder and head producer Eitan Gafni, it was on
“This is much more than just another reality show,” he told
The Jerusalem Post
’s Hannah Brown last year. “It fosters a love of Hebrew songs
among young people from around the world. It starts out in the Jewish
communities of the Diaspora, and then moves to Israel. It’s not just
about the music and the artistry, but about the heart and the soul. In these
songs there is the story of this country and the feelings of those who built
Kleinberg, wearing a leather jacket and pacing the stage during the
August competition before a live audience of 3,000, received sterling marks from
the team of judges, headed by Yehoram Gaon and including Gafni, Kobi Oshrat,
Hanan Yovel, Yehuda Edar, Tomer Hadadi, DJ Skazi and Niv Tomer.
him, the best part of the experience was befriending and traveling with the
other contestants from around the world as they toured the country, visited
historical sites and prepared for the competition.
experience was amazing because you get to meet Jewish people from around the
world who you have so much in common with,” he said. “You’re together 24/7 with
other Jewish people who are all singers or musicians, so we were constantly
singing together, no matter where we were traveling.”
Music has been an
integral part of Kleinberg’s life since he began taking taking bar mitzva
lessons at age 12 and, encouraged by his synagogue’s cantor, discovered that he
had a great voice.
“He was an opera singer, in addition to being the
chazan of the temple, and he urged me to start singing Kabalat Shabbat. Later, I
joined a rock band with some friends, and that was it. It’s all I wanted to do,”
said Kleinberg, adding that he won a Mexican Jewish singing competition last
year singing the same Hayehudim song.
When the time came to record his
duet as part of his prize, however, his producer Kagan suggested he listen to
“I had never heard it before, and I really liked it.
It’s an emotional song, and it spoke to me,” said Kleinberg. “We got in touch
with Momi Levy, who’s an amazing singer, and we began to work on vocal
arrangements. When I arrived in December to go into the studio and I heard the
musical arrangement that had been prepared, I loved it. I hope it’s going to
make a good impression on the Israeli people.”
Whether it does or not is
beside the point at this stage because, thanks to the Hallelujah contest and the
surprising ramifications on his life, Kleinberg already feels like a winner.
feel like I am marching in a new direction, and the beginning is already so