January 09, 2011

Goodbye Debbie Friedman

Goodbye Debbie. I was one of the millions you touched and privileged to have once worked with you. You touched millions and impacted people in ways that cannot be measured.

JPost has a nice write up that is worth reading in its entirety, but here are two excerpts:

She started writing Jewish liturgical music as a group songleader at the Union for Reform Judaism’s Olin-Sang- Ruby Union Institute summer camp in the early 1970s, setting ancient texts to modern, accessible, singable melodies. She published more than 19 albums of music inspired by American folk music greats, using English and Hebrew lyrics and often, the simple accompaniment of a guitar.

Friedman performed to sold-out audiences at New York’s Carnegie Hall, as well as in hundreds of other cities around the world. Her musical version of “Mi Sheberah,” the prayer for healing, is used by hundreds of congregations across America. According to her website, Friedman’s music is performed in synagogues around the world more than that of any other modern composer.


Regardless of denominational affiliation, Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, who holds the Abner & Roslyn Goldstine Dean’s Chair at the school’s Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, said that Friedman “has an impact that transcends all the labels dividing Jewish life.”

“You can measure her reach by the [way] virtually everyone uses her havdala melody, often without knowing it,” Artson said, referring to the prayer marking the transition from Sabbath to a new week. “You can measure her impact by the fact that there is a rich profession of contemporary Jewish music when none existed outside the cantorate before her.

You can measure her gift by the way it feels natural now to learn and sing Torah in women’s voices and in women’s words. And you can savor her gift in the bountiful harvest of her enormous collection of spirited and spiritual songs.”

On a personal note, Artson said that Friedman “touched and elevated” his soul at every conference, adding that her extended ‘Kaddish De-Rabbanan’ sessions “reached the darkest recesses of my heart.”

“Debbie is, and remains, one of a kind,” Artson said.

Debbie Friedman Tribute video
The Latke Song- My kids love this

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