Biography

Two sparks were ignited within Shaina Ettel at the age of two –

One for music…
By the age of two, Shaina Ettel sang all the time. Her vocal career began on the “window seat” stage in the living room. She would stand on that stage and perform for her captive and adoring family. At age six she joined the Schuylerville Community Children’s theater. She received her first solo role because of her clear voice and precise timing in the play the Hippos Crashed the Dance. The more she sang, the more she wanted to sing.  That first part led to larger roles, and between the ages of 6 and 19 Shaina Ettel appeared in over 40 musicals in the Saratoga, Lake George and Albany, New York region. She was Kim McAfee in Bye Bye Birdie, Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, Sandy Dumbrowski in Grease, Cinderella in Cinderella and Ti Moune in Once on this Island. She also was in the Children’s Chorus of the professional traveling production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Dreaming of a professional musical career, she pursued and earned a degree in vocal performance from the State University of New York at New Paltz.

And the second love was for Torah.
Also at the age of two, her grandparents took her to the pre-school Shabbat service at Temple Israel in Albany NY. This began Shaina Ettel’s love of Torah and her desire to share that love with others, as evidenced by this piece written for the Temple bulletin by Marsha Halpert, teacher of the Primary Services. 

“I have been conducting primary services for four years. Each week we sing Shabbat songs, prayers, and blessing. We listen to Shabbat stories and share something special that happened to each of us during the past week. Together we have Kiddush consisting of cookies and grape juice. Then there are more songs, dances, and Shabbat games. 

A little girl named Sara (Shaina Ettel), when visiting her grandparents in Albany, attends our services. So excited was she to share them with her family, that when her aunt and grandma came she insisted that her grandpa come too

Parents please bring your children to Primary Services on Shabbat mornings. Perhaps I should say children, bring your families as Sara did!

Shaina Ettel continued with her religious education through Temple Sinai Religious School, a Reform congregation in Saratoga Springs, New York. She was a bat mitzvah, chanted Torah on Rosh Hashanah, and was a dance instructor. She frequently had thoughtful discussions with the Rabbi and her teachers. 

Pursuing the love of music and the love of Torah
In 2003 at the end of her sophomore year, her original plan was to travel to China to take a University summer course, but due to the SARS epidemic the trip was cancelled.  Determined to travel somewhere, Shaina Ettel discovered the Taglit-Birthright Israel trip.  Advertised as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the beauty of Israel and form lasting friendships,” this trip changed the direction of her future. After two days Shaina Ettel decided to remain in Israel for the rest 2003 summer. During that time, a new friend asked if she would consider studying Judaism more intensely, so she began to study Jewish laws, mitzvot, and minchagim, and to lead a more traditional Jewish life.

She loved Israel; it felt like home to her, but Shaina Ettel still had two more years of college to complete. On her return to University, she learned that a young Chabad family had opened a Chabad House that summer. She felt this was “G-d sent.” Now she would have people with who to observe Shabbat and to also help her obtain kosher foods. Continuing with her enthusiasm for learning and sharing Torah, she utilized her leadership skills and with Chabad founded a campus-approved organization called “JewPaltz.”

The following summer she revisited Israel and increased her knowledge of Jewish laws, mitzvot, minchags, and history. At that time she learned about the practice of Kol Isha, women singing for women only. As the Chabad house came into her life at just the right time she reasoned that G-d would help her find a way to link her love of singing and love of Torah.  

The Move to Israel
Shaina Ettel became a citizen of Israel and moved there in July 2005. For part of that summer she was joined by her brother Todd Joki who was participating in the 17th Maccabiah games as a member of the USA Track & Field team and also by her parents. Enrollment in Ulpan Etzion began immediately and she soon became immersed in the everyday life of a new immigrant. Although her brother and parents returned to the States she visits them often via the internet and on their return trips to her new home.

Intertwining the love of Torah and the love of singing together
Shortly after her move to Jerusalem, she found Malchus, Center of Chassidic learning. There she attended the niggunim class taught by Rachel Ferency. This is where the love of singing and the love of Torah began to come together. Her classically trained voice gives this music a beautiful, powerful, and purer sound than is traditionally associated with it. Through niggunim Shaina Ettel is able to fuse both two passions into one.

Shaina Ettel began to have musical opportunities in the women-for-women venue. She became the vocalist for Rachel’s band Alei Asso. At one concert she was discovered by the Efrat/Gush Etzion Summer Stock Raise Your Spirits Company. She was offered the title role of Ruth in their original musical production of Ruth and Naomi in the Fields of Bethlehem. Throughout the fall and winter of 2006-2007, 10,000 women from all over in the world enjoyed this production.

Life in Jerusalem
Shaina Ettel presently and pleasantly lives in the picturesque Nachlaot neighborhood. Here she is a short walk from her shul Mayanot, and her classes and gatherings at Malchus as well as the Western Wall and Old City. She is only minutes from Machane Yahude where she enjoys fresh produce and pastries, and on most Fridays can be found handing out Shabbat candles. She currently lives with friends she met at Ulpan — Anna from England and Belinda from South Africa.

Ya’ale — May It Ascend
Through Ya’ale Shaina Ettel brings a fresh approach to traditional Jewish music.  She captures the heart and soul of this music like no one has done before. The sound is right, the songs are powerful, and the music is timeless. Described as ethereal, haunting, heavenly and awesome, she has a sound of pure joy and beauty…  a style somewhere between pop and classical. This recording will become your favorite from the start and you will listen to it again and again. This music will go straight to your heart and lift you up — Ya’ale.