How Ema Shah dared to sing in Hebrew in Kuwait, in 2010, Roundtable recap

Editorial | Republic Underground 

March 30, 2021

Above, image taken from the Roundtable Event. 

March is Women’s Month in the United States, and in honor of it, Republic Underground news has interviewed successful and inspiring women from all over the world. The event was moderated by Irina Tsukerman, Republic Underground’s media vice president.

“Hi, today with us, we have Ema Shah, a courageous star and human rights activist. This is part of Republic Underground’s Women’s Month which is March,” said Tsukerman, who noted she had known Shah for many years and found her to be inspiring.

“I’m really fortunate to have known Ema for several years. She has been nothing but inspiring, active, and amazing in every way and I’m very happy to have her here,” said Tsukerman.

“Thank you, Irina. Thank you so much for this opportunity.”
“It’s been a while, no thanks to the pandemic, but this is a good time to catch up,” said Tsukerman, introducing Shah to the audience as a successful Kuwaiti actress.

Tsukerman noted that Shah was one of the first Kuwaitis to sing in Hebrew in Kuwait, in 2010 long before the Abraham Accords. Shah led the way as a trailblazer for that.

“This was something was not happening at that time at all,” Tsukerman noted, calling the event “groundbreaking.” She then asked Shah to give a bit of background about her personal life, her inspirations for the arts and human rights, and how she came to the point where she chose to make that groundbreaking step.

“You reminded me of when a Kuwaiti director asked me one time, ‘what was the best thing you’ve done in your life in the art industry?’ And I said, ‘when I sang in Hebrew,’ and his response was ‘no, this is wrong.’,” she noted, becoming reflective.


“I think one of the good things to understand what is human rights, is to defend the right of even one person. Your right or other rights. This is the basic of human rights. That’s what we have to understand,” she said, noting the extreme importance of language and communication.

“You’d like to understand the other people, but for a long time, you didn’t communicate with them. This is one of the wrong things we’ve done, we humans. We separate from each other for no reason. Just for resources, maybe? I understand this is one of our mistakes as humans. That we separate from each other because of the resources, we thought that there are not enough sources. I went far away from your question, but this is also connected to what I want to say. I’m really happy with what I did. If that was a mistake singing in Hebrew, then I am happy with that mistake,” said Shah.

Tsukerman noted that this was a great perspective to have in a day and time when people use human rights for almost anything other than human rights. She then asked Shah how she formed this perspective.
“What motivated you? What brought about that perspective in yourself? How did you come to that view?” asked Tsukerman.
“Of course, when you are in the industry, acting on TV, the stage, the media, how you grow up is (important.)”

She noted that, growing up, her father was a librarian so she read a great deal to gain perspective on the way that other people live, but that she had not traveled abroad until 2004 when she was 24.

“So, when you see American movies, and movies from all over the world on TV, when you are a child this is fascinating to you what are other people?” she laughed, as she thought about the different questions she had, such as what to other people live like, what do they smell, or eat, or how do they speak? She had a never-ending series of questions regarding the lives of people in faraway places.