Jewish Journal

Remembering Debbie Friedman: Rabbi Anne L. Brener

By Rabbi Anne L. Brener, LCSW

Posted on Jan. 10, 2011 at 10:21 am

For years, I would end my workshops on grief and healing with Debbie’s rendition of the Kaddish, one of her early and less well-known melodies. Her setting defies conventional understandings of the Kaddish, yet is indeed consistent with the Kaddish’s affirmation of life. Debbie’s melody is lyrical, danceable, and downright sexy. Because healing takes place in such a deep cellular part of the self, it gave me great pleasure to infuse this sensibility into the souls and bodies of those who mourn, gently urging them to connect with the subterranean currents of life and joy that flow in us even when our consciousness is filled with grief and pain.

Jewish tradition empowers us to recite Kaddish for our teachers. Honoring Debbie’s memory with this melody accomplishes another of the Kaddish’s intentions: It will help Debbie, our upbeat yet profound teacher, to continue to dwell among us. She will be with us, yet how we will miss her!

In the last days, when praying for Debbie, I felt like we were in a musical tug of war with the angels, who were coming to claim her and bring her, in the words of one of Debbie’s gems (and the prayer we say as we lower the body into the ground,) “takhat canfe haShechinah” (Under the wings of the Shechinah). I wish we could have had her longer.

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