Aliya date: 2003
Family status: Single
In a serene, soft-spoken voice, artist and singer Nati Rosenthal tells of her very unconventional upbringing and the choices which led her to make Israel her home. As an only child, Nati was brought up in Romania by her maternal grandparents, surrounded by Yiddishkeit and Jewish tradition. Her mother, a professional singer and pianist, was often on the road, and her father, a successful contractor, was busy building his business.
At 14, Nati, already an accomplished singer, struck out on her own. She attended high school in Greece, Romania and France and delved deeply into jazz. She performed and traveled all over Europe, and at 18 she won first prize for best vocal interpretation at the International Jazz Festival in Corinth, Greece. "It was a chance meeting in Bucharest with a bass player from Israel that led me to continue my music education in Israel," says Rosenthal.
Rosenthal's father was born in Greece. Her mother was born in Germany to a German mother and a Spanish father. Her maternal grandmother, from the now Ukrainian city of Chernovitz, survived Auschwitz, and moved to Israel with her husband after the Holocaust. However, her grandfather had heart problems and the family relocated to Transylvania. Rosenthal's parents met in France, when her mother was a student at a music academy and her father was visiting.
Rosenthal did the World Union of Jewish Students program in Arad in 2000, and upon the recommendation of Adam Scheflan, the bass player, she decided to check out the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music. "I had already been offered a scholarship to a jazz college in Amsterdam, but I always had a stronger attraction to the East than to the West, so I went to see Rimon's director," says Rosenthal. "He heard me sing and immediately accepted me, but there were no scholarships available."
Rosenthal returned to Bucharest, where she performed on a regular basis at the Great Synagogue, saved money and looked for scholarships to return to Israel. It was then-chief rabbi of Romania Menahem Hacohen who helped her to secure a four-year scholarship to study in Israel from the Joint Distribution Committee.
While at the Rimon School, Rosenthal studied Hebrew at an ulpan, and in 2003 she decided to make aliya. "I really loved Israel, the people, the music, the artistic and cultural openness, and especially the high level of spirituality vibrating in the air," she says. "I didn't really have a home. Israel was the only place I knew I could always call home."
Nati's mother, who is on the extreme left, strongly opposed her decision and has not spoken to her in five years. She has not seen her father in a number of years either, although she speaks with him infrequently.
After a couple of years at the Rimon School, Rosenthal transferred to the Music Academy, and now makes her home in Tel Aviv, where she is a vibrant member of the music scene.
"I don't have a set routine," explains Rosenthal. "I practice, work with other musicians to create music, play gigs and sometimes have steady performances."
Rosenthal has performed at the Tmuna Theater, Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, Beit Leyvik, Suzanne Dellal Center, Levontin 7, Karov Theater, The Arabic-Jewish Center in Jaffa, Hangar Adama, Global Peace Festival, Ha'oman 13, Yellow Submarine and the Sulha Israeli-Palestinian Festival for Peace held at Latrun. She never does the same thing every week, but she enjoys and loves what she does.
Rosenthal lived for three years in South Tel Aviv in a sprawling house with two big yards that she absolutely loved. She and her roommates frequently hosted parties and jam sessions. But the landlord decided to sell, and today she lives in a two-room apartment with a friend in the midst of a lively artist community in central Tel Aviv.
"My friends are mainly artists and musicians," she says. "We are a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities from all over the world." Her circle includes Israelis, Europeans, Africans, Arabs and North Americans. Some are Israeli citizens; others come for the music and stay. "I have made great friends here," she says.
Getting by is not always easy, but Rosenthal says that she lives for her music, and she and her friends find cheap rent and don't have a lot of expenses. Every so often her father helps her out.
Rosenthal is more spiritual than religious. She goes to synagogue sometimes because it reminds her of her childhood and "it's an optimal place to slow down the mind and take a moment to reflect and be grateful for all of the things we forget and take for granted."
"The first year I was in Israel, I lived in Ramat Aviv Gimmel and went to synagogue every week," says Rosenthal. "This is very European. But in Israel most everyone is Jewish, and after a while I didn't feel the need to do anything special in this way."
"I am Jewish," she says. When people ask her where she is from she usually says Greece, because she feels that this is the closest place to her heart, outside of Israel. She has very complex issues about her roots.
"I'm very universal and open minded," explains Rosenthal. "Nationalities don't really mean anything to me. What is important to me is who people are and how they live their lives as individuals. I don't feel that who my parents are or where I came from says anything about me."
Rosenthal doesn't have a mother tongue. She is most comfortable in English and speaks this best. Her Romanian is good, although she finds herself forgetting words and expressions in the past few years. She speaks and understands French and Greek and her Hebrew is fluent, but she says "there is room for improvement."
"I want to live to my full potential and I want my music to make a change in people's lives and bring more love to the world," she says with passion. "Singing is my gift. Making music is my lifeline and this is growing and developing all the time as I grow and develop as an individual."
She is constantly bringing new ideas to her music. She wants to combine classical Jewish prayers with jazz and African music and she is currently working on this concept. She performs in Jerusalem with American-born free jazz musician, Abshalom Ben-Shlomo, who she feels is on the same spiritual plane in music and in life, and this is deeply satisfying.
"I believe in myself and in what I do," says Rosenthal. "And even if I get rejected, I still believe. I will do the best I can and see where this gets me."
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