TEL AVIV — About to embark on her first concert tour in Israel, Montreal-born singer Kathleen Reiter is hoping she’ll stay in the spotlight and garner more than just 15 minutes of fame.
Reiter is likely the most famous Canadian immigrant in Israel at the moment, having won the country’s first edition of The Voice Israel, a TV talent contest for singers. She and her fellow contestants are now gearing up for a nationwide concert series that kicks off on May 24.
“I feel a great sense of pride to have been part of something so amazing, not only for television but for the music scene as well. To have been part of the final four with such talented singers and musicians in the very first season of The Voice Israel is amazing! I feel very proud,” Reiter told The CJN.
From the moment she belted out British singer Adele’s Rolling in the Deep last October during The Voice auditions, Israelis have been breaking their teeth trying to say her name (there’s no “th” sound in Hebrew).
All four of the show’s mentors – Israeli singers Sarit Hadad, Rami Kleinstein, Aviv Geffen and Shlomi Shabat – vied for her as their student. Reiter chose to work with Hadad in a show of “girl power.”
“Working with Sarit was amazing, I learned so much, and it was a great privilege to be able to work with her. She’s had an amazing career, and I was very lucky to be able to learn from her,” said Reiter. “I am looking forward to working with her in the future, and I am sure that I will keep learning from her.”
During the contest, Reiter proved she’s a pop powerhouse. She sang songs in Hebrew, English and French. As her parents are Israeli, she grew up speaking Hebrew at home. She even released her first single in Hebrew. That was “very important to me,” she said.
The idea of making aliyah came to her when she was 16, while taking part in the March of the Living – a march from Auschwitz to Birkenau in Poland, followed by a trip to Israel. After that, she made numerous visits to Israel. Last summer, while on an extended stay in Tel Aviv, Reiter auditioned for The Voice.
“I think [being accepted on the show] played a big part in sort of sealing my decision. I always say it was like a sign from above that I was meant to be here and that I made the right decision to stay and live in Israel,” she said.
Some critics eyed the 23-year-old with suspicion, noting that most Israeli singers hope to make it big in North America and Reiter did the exact opposite in coming to a small music community.
“My choice to come live in Israel was something completely separate from my music dreams. I have always felt a strong attachment to this country, and it felt right for me to start my life here,” she said. “The experience on The Voice just reinforced the feeling I had that I was really meant to be here.”
That said, Reiter isn’t about to limit her musical career to Israel only.
“My dream and my goal are to make it as far as I could on the show and open doors for myself to be able to pursue a music career,” she said. “I don’t think any artist wants to limit themselves or put boundaries to their music. If I am able to reach other places with my music, then in my eyes, that’s a very good thing.”
While most new immigrants face hellish bureaucracy upon moving to Israel, Reiter has paparazzi and overzealous fans to deal with as well.
“I’m fully aware that this comes with the territory… I don’t think anyone is ever really ready [to deal with them], but I have an amazing support system, my family and my friends, and that is what helps me deal with this sometimes overwhelming world of music and television,” she said.
Almost every report about Reiter highlights her Canadian background. But she shies away from being called a representative of the Canadian Jewish community.
“That is definitely a tough role to take on, but if my experience and journey on The Voice can shed some light on what it means to be a Canadian Jew and what it means to leave everything and come live in Israel, then that is amazing,” she said. “My journey is a personal one and I do not think I can represent an entire community, but if I can be a small part, then I am proud to do so.”
It was a cover song of Adele’s that got her on the show and another cover of the U.K. artist, Set Fire to the Rain, during the finals that scored her first-place in the contest.
If Reiter had the chance to speak with Adele, she said, “I would have a million questions for her! About her style and her writing! But mostly I would probably say, ‘Thank you for inspiring me and thank you for sharing your amazing talent with the world because I think that the music world is very lucky to have someone like Adele.’”
And the Israeli music scene seems very happy to have someone like Reiter.