A talented singer from JFS School has been taking to the London stage with top Israeli artists to show her solidarity with the country.
Shelly Chitiyat, 16, from Hendon, has sung with Rita and Dudu Tassa to raise money for trauma relief projects run by British Friends of the Art Museums of Israel (BFAMI).
Singing a mixture of songs from the UK and from Israel, where both her parents are from, Shelly cites Adele as “her inspiration”, telling the JC: “I have been singing my whole life. Music is my passion.”
Discovering her love of singing at the age of three, Shelly started lessons at seven, experiencing her first taste of fame aged 10 when she was invited by French singer Enrico Macias to sing in front of 10,000 people in Jerusalem.
While she used to get nervous, now Shelly’s main concern is “making people happy”, she says, adding: “I try not to be too hard on myself anymore and being more relaxed enables me to come out of my shell when I am on stage.”
Recounting a concert she did in London to raise funds for the Israeli emergency services organisation, Zaka, Shelly says: “There was a man there whose mum was a hostage. He came up to me at the end to thank me and gave me a hug. It made me realise that while I can’t help Israel by going there, I can do what I can from London.”
With showbusiness in her genes – Shelly’s mother runs a production company which her grandfather set up, and Shelly’s grandma established a dance school – it comes as little surprise that Shelly has followed their creative footsteps. As well as singing and uploading song covers onto TikTok, Shelly also plays the piano.
Receiving standing ovations for her recent performances with Rita and Tassa, Shelly, who is the youngest of five siblings, has been in demand to sing at other Jewish and Israeli charity events, but is having to find a careful balance between performing and doing schoolwork. “My GCSEs are very important to me. In the future, I’d like to do something to do with music, but I don’t want to throw away my other options and find myself limited.”
However, the opportunity to support stars such as Rita and Tassa hasn’t been lost on her. “I felt very privileged to be able to perform with them since I have always looked up to them. Seeing them perform live was amazing, but they are also very nice people.”
With many family members living in Israel, Shelly says that she is “hearing first-hand the experience of war. I was on the phone to my cousins when the bomb sirens went off.”
Her song choices reflect the pressing need for hope and optimism among Israelis and the Anglo-Jewish community and have included versions of the Shema, Bring Him Home from Les Misérables as a tribute to those still held hostage in Gaza and a medley of The Beatles’ Let It Be and the Israeli song, Lu Yehi by Naomi Shemer. “I want to give everyone hope that it will all work out.”