Gender Bender: Israel’s Next ‘Idol’ Judge

By Nathan Burstein

Published April 08, 2009, issue of April 17, 2009.
  • Print
  • Share Share

‘American Idol” and its Israeli counterpart have both added a female judge for their 2009 seasons, but there’s one major difference: The Israeli judge used to be a man.


Transsexual pop star Dana International has joined the panel of experts for the seventh season of “Kochav Nolad” (“A Star Is Born”), the Israeli version of the smash TV singing contest. Born Yaron Cohen, the singer will become the show’s second female judge, joining music veteran Margalit Tzanani on the male-dominated panel. The move echoes the addition of songwriter Kara DioGuardi to the judges’ table on “American Idol,” currently in its eighth season. Both that show and “Kochav Nolad” proved runaway hits in their first seasons, but have gradually cooled off.

Though never a favorite among the religious, Dana International has maintained a wide following since leading Israel to victory at the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest, a pop competition that also helped launch the careers of ABBA and Celine Dion. More recently, the singer scored a string of hit singles from her 2007 pop album “Hakol Zeh Letova” (“Everything Is for the Best”). She continues to perform occasionally for fans in Europe.

Kochav Nolad” producers have come up with several additional changes for the show’s next season. After Passover, the judges will travel to New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas to audition Israeli expatriates, as well as American wannabes ready to sing in Hebrew.

The show’s producers are hoping to incorporate a bit of extra star power during the judges’ tour of the United States, inviting several American celebrities to serve as guest panelists. Their wish list includes Adam Sandler, Dolly Parton, Barry Manilow and Sheryl Crow, according to the “Kochav Nolad” Web site.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love.
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.