Debbie Friedman was eulogized at her funeral service Tuesday by friends, rabbis, fans and fellow musicians, both in words and through the songs she composed and sang and which transformed Jewish worship in synagogues and summer camps.
Her acoustic guitar lay on top of her casket during services at Temple Beth Sholom in Santa Ana, the Orange County Register reported.
Friedman died Sunday (Jan. 9) at 59, after being diagnosed with pneumonia and admitted to a hospital a few days earlier.
She blended the folk music roots of the 1960s and ‘70s and combined them with traditional Jewish prayers and liturgy, and was frequently described as the “Joan Baez of Jewish song.”
Mourners at the service joined Craig Taubman and other singers in such famous Friedman works as “Sing Unto God,” “Devorah’s Song,” “You Are The One,” “Miriam’s Song” and “L’chi Lach.”
Perhaps Friedman’s best known composition is “Mi Sheberach,” a popular version of a prayer of healing for the sick.
It was this song that felloe congregants of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords sang at a “healing service” at Congregation Chaverim in Tucson on Sunday, the day of Friedman’s death.
Giffords was shot by a gunman Saturday (Jan. 8) in a fusillade that killed six persons, and she is now hospitalized with severe brain injuries.
At the Tuesday service in Santa Ana, Rabbi Heidi Cohen of Temple Beth Sholom described Friedman as a modest artist, despite her fame, adding, “If Debbie were here today, she would say, ‘What’s the big fuss? I don’t need this. I don’t want this.’”
Rabbi Richard N. Levy of Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles said of his former colleague, “Debbie wanted us to believe that God is good and God takes our prayers seriously. Even though all our prayers did not (heal her), they provided an escort into the next world that sang unto God, this woman is going to rock your throne.”
Also on Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council adjourned its meeting in memory of Friedman, whom Councilmember Paul Koretz eulogized as “Anyone who has ever attended a liberal Jewish synagogue or summer camp or youth group event has been touched by Debbie Friedman.
“She was always ahead of the curve—be it in songs for lifecycle events, Jewish feminist music, or interfaith spirituality…May her memory—and her music—be a blessing.”