The Reform movement’s cantorial school has been named after the late Debbie Friedman.
Rabbi David Ellenson, president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, made the announcement Jan. 27 in New York at a memorial tribute to Friedman, who died Jan. 9 at 59.
Friends of the late singer-songwriter have made possible an endowment to the school, which will henceforth be known as The Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music, Ellenson said.
“A beloved member of our faculty since 2007, Debbie Friedman, z”l, inspired our students through her creativity and musical talents, helped guide their spiritual and leadership development, and provided them with innovative strategies to transform congregations into communities of learning and meaning,” Ellenson said. “Her words and her music will live on and shape the world of prayer in our synagogues and in the larger Jewish community for this and future generations.”
Friedman transformed Jewish worship in North American liberal synagogues with her sing-along style of folk-inspired music. Since her start as a song leader in Reform summer camps in the early 1970s, she released 20 albums and was a much sought-after performer on the Jewish circuit.
Her most well-known composition, “Mi Shebeirach,” a Hebrew-English version of the Jewish prayer for healing, is now part of the Reform liturgy. She was named to the School of Sacred Music faculty in 2007.
HUC’s School of Sacred Music in New York was established in 1948 and has invested 462 cantors.