One evening last February, 1,500 people poured into the vast sanctuary of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, filling every inch.
About two weeks before she died, Debbie Friedman stood with Rabbi Joy Levitt at the piano in Levitt’s Manhattan apartment, and she shared with her friend a melody that the legendary singer and composer would never have the chance to record.
Last year, we started our Top Jew of the Year list by featuring “Jews who embody the best in Jewish values.” For 2011, however, we had to readjust our thinking a bit. Below, a list of Jews in the News, with the best of the Tribe up top, and the rest…well, you’ll see.
If it was a bit easier than usual to find a seat or a parking spot at your synagogue over Presidents’ Day weekend, you may be able to thank the organizers of the LimmudLA conference. More than 500 Jews from Los Angeles and beyond traveled to the Hilton in Costa Mesa for the fourth annual gathering of cross-denominational learning. LimmudLA is one of 50 annual Limmud conferences worldwide, all of them modeled after the United Kingdom Limmud, begun in 1980.
As the piano struck the first notes of Debbie Friedman’s “Elohai N’Shama,” Cantor Linda Kates paused before the approximately 1,500 people gathered in the sanctuary at Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) and recalled a story about how the late singer-songwriter energized a crowd of Jewish students while teaching them the song.
JewishJournal.com will livecast Valley Beth Shalom's Debbie Friedman Tribute, "Lechi Lach," on Sunday, Feb. 13 at 7:30pm.
The music of Debbie Friedman energized generations of Jews across denomination lines. This weekend, a memorial concert to be held in the late singer-songwriter’s honor will attempt to do the same through a celebration of Friedman’s popular tunes.
Janice Kamenir-Reznik is wrong to defend illegal immigration to Israel (“Israel Must Grant Entry to Asylum Seekers,” Jan. 28). It’s not about dealing without care for “asylum” seekers. It’s about Muslims infiltrating and undermining Jewish sovereignty in what the United Nations intended to be a Jewish homeland. Every non-Jew seems bent on taking away that right from the Jewish people, and some Jews also support “multiculturism” and liberalism or other “isms” but betray their Jewish destiny. Those who reject the Jewish character of Israel or wish to harm Jews have no place in Israel.
The Reform movement’s cantorial school has been named after the late Debbie Friedman.
To those who love it, Hava Nashira is less a Jewish summer music workshop and more a calling. Even the name — translated as “come let us sing” — beckons. Started in 1992 by Debbie Friedman and Cantor Jeff Klepper, the sessions originally intended to train camp song leaders have gone on to have a global impact on Jewish music and synagogue life.
Composer, Jewish liturgist, singer-songwriter, prayer leader extraordinaire, member of the lgbt community--Debbie touched our lives in ways too many to count. It was Debbie Friedman who taught the liberal Jewish world to pray for healing and just as there were special prayers offered worldwide (including at BCC) over the last few days for her healing, so now will there be prayers offered with the intent to comfort the many who mourn her loss, and to bring her soul to rest under the wings of Shekhinah.
When the New Reform Congregation [now Temple Kol Tikvah in Woodland Hills] was established in 1984, Debbie was our chazzan for 3 years. She responded, and the congregation was thrilled, as truly “the old dreamed new dreams and the youth saw visions.” Our shul was “alive to the sound of music” to Debbie's presence and her music. Debbie gave voice to the voiceless through her voice and her passion for justice.
Jewish Life Exists in San Gabriel, Pomona Valleys. I was pleased to read the Jan. 7 article “University of La Verne Hires New Jewish President.” The University of La Verne is a wonderful asset for the greater Los Angeles area, and now, with Devorah A. Lieberman as the incoming president, there is a special connection to the local Jewish community. However, the story failed to acknowledge that there are Jews living in the area and community where the University of La Verne is located. The Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys provides programs and services that meet the needs of the Jews living in our community — an area from Glendale in the west to Rancho Cucamonga in the east and south to Whittier; an area that has an estimated Jewish population of 40,000 to 80,000.
Tribute services for the Debbie Friedman throughout Southern California.
To all of Debbie’s beloved fans who have inquired about making donations in her memory: A number of years ago, Debbie established the Renewal of Spirit Foundation with the goal of manifesting her life’s work and all that she stood for. Now, donations to the Renewal of Spirit Foundation will enable the projects that Debbie was working on at the time of her death to be completed. These funds will also support future projects reflecting her passions and commitments.
Singer-songwriter Debbie Friedman was eulogized at her funeral by friends, rabbis and fellow musicians in words and through her songs. Her acoustic guitar lay on top of her casket during Tuesday's funeral service at Temple Beth Sholom in Santa Ana, Calif., the Orange County Register reported. Friedman, whose music transformed Jewish worship in synagogues and summer camps, died Jan. 9 at the age of 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 1970s and combined them with traditional Jewish prayers and liturgy, and was frequently described as the "Joan Baez of Jewish song."
“I am a Jew because in spite of all the hatred and violence in this world, I believe we must hope and live together as if the world were sheltered beneath the wings of the Shekhinah,” Debbie Friedman wrote as part of her response to the final words of journalist Daniel Pearl in “I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl,” compiled and edited by Ruth and Judea Pearl, the writer’s parents, and published by Jewish Lights Publishing.
Debbie Friedman's funeral will be live streamed from Temple Beth Sholom in Santa Ana, CA on Tuesday, January 11th, 2011 at 11am (PST) at this page. Friedman died Sunday after being hospitalized in Orange County for several days with pneumonia. She was 59.
Debbie Friedman, the popular singer and songwriter who died Sunday, wrote the following for "I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl," a collection of writings following the 2002 murder of Wall Street reporter Daniel Pearl. Dear Daniel, This is the first time I have had to think about the “why” of the words “I am a Jew.” I have never defined myself or my work before. I was born into a Jewish family, exposed to Jewish experiences and Jewish people. The concept “I am a Jew” never crossed my mind until I was asked to reflect on your words.
Debbie was more than a singer, songwriter and performer; she was a teacher.
I first met Debbie at the third Conference on Alternatives in Jewish Education at UC Irvine in August, 1977. Many of the 700 people there had never heard of her; I knew that she was a song leader working in Texas. Stuart Kelman, Joel Grishaver and I asked her to close the conference. What she did with the audience of educators that evening was absolutely magical. She told us she was proud to be a Jewish teacher. She was funny, with a twinkle in her eye. She sang us a little song she had written for her religious school kids - "Aleph, Bet, Veit." Then, "Not by Might, Not by Power." Then, "Miriam's Song." And on and on. She insisted "this isn't a performance, let's sing together." And sing we did. She taught us the words; she repeated the melody until we had it. She got us on our feet, arms around each other. We were uplifted and inspired.
I have known Debbie for 35 years, since we were on staff together at Camp Swig.
I read on Twitter that Debbie Friedman had died. The Jewish world has lost one of the leading lights in Jewish music. I am heartbroken. Debbie opened up my heart and soul to holiness and the Holy One. And now she is gone.
Yesterday morning, at 5:49 a.m., my friend and teacher Debbie Friedman left the world. I’m not sure what is an appropriate time to leave, but I’m quite certain she left too early.
Over the weekend, as singer-songwriter Debbie Friedman lay dying in a hospital bed in Southern California, the call went out to Jewish congregations around the world to pray for the popular musician. But early Sunday morning Friedman, who composed the popular melody to "Mi Shebeirach," the Jewish prayer for healing, was unable to find healing herself. A longtime sufferer of multiple sclerosis, Friedman died at age 59. The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Temple Beth Sholom in Santa Ana, Calif. “The healing of the body is something somewhat distinct from the healing of the soul,” said Rabbi Jacqueline Koch Ellenson, director of the Women’s Rabbinic Network, who was one of hundreds who turned out Sunday night at the Manhattan JCC to mourn the singer in an event originally planned as a prayer gathering for her recovery from illness.
I’ve always considered Debbie to be a genius – even when colleagues were putting down her music as “camp” music or “just for kids.”
The following audio clip is a short statement recorded by Debbie Friedman for the Milken Archive in 1993.
Debbie was an amazingly gifted singer and songwriter. Most knew her through her incredible Jewish music. I had the privilege of knowing her not only through singing and her music, but as my teacher. When I was 12 years old, I was already teaching religious school music at Temple Israel in Memphis, Tenn. The Sisterhood of the Temple invested in my skill and talent and sent me that June to SoFTY camp at Jacobs Camp. SoFTY was the old NFTY name of the Southern Region of the North American Federation of Temple Youth, the Reform Jewish Youth Movement. I wasn’t in SoFTY yet, I was still in middle school not high school. Debbie was songleading at SoFTY camp. It was 1972. I was sent there specifically to learn from her how to songlead! And I did. She taught me technique and style and songleading tips. In private classes! And there began a special friendship that would last these many years. It was that first exposure to her and her music that ultimately helped propel me toward the rabbinate.
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.
My first encounter with Debbie was in 1986 at the Simchat Chockmah ritual for becoming an elder she helped create and lead for the feminist Biblical scholar, her friend, Savina Teubal. Two moments in the ritual took my breath away. The first was in the middle of the ceremony, when Savina put on a kittel, the traditional burial shroud. Without words, that robing communicated the powerful truth that everything changes, and that although this new stage of Savina’s life would someday end with her death, she could continue to be a blessing.
I am a Debbie Friedman Jew. There is no one who has influenced me more in my Judaism than Debbie.
Just hours after Debbie Friedman’s death, more than 400 people turned out for a memorial service for the popular songwriter who is widely credited with reinvigorating synagogue music. Friedman's funeral is scheduled for Tuesday, near Los Angeles. The memorial event, held Sunday night at the JCC in Manhattan, had been slated originally as a healing service to offer prayers for Friedman, who was hospitalized in Southern California for several days with pneumonia.
Debbie's music provided the soundtrack for much of my adolescence -- my summers at camp and my years as a member of our synagogue's youth group. When I had the privilege of working with her for a week at the URJ Kallah in Santa Cruz, I truly gained insight into her genius and her creative process. I also realized that Debbie was one of the most spontaneous people with whom I have ever worked. Although song sessions and tefillot had been planned well in advance, what the congregation witnessed was never what we had discussed. She felt the mood of the congregation and on the spot would suggest we sing a different melody or prayer -- and she was always right -- she had this uncanny sense of being able to gauge the "kahal" and to adapt to the moment.
Today Debbie Friedman died and I am deeply touched by this. Beyond a feeling of empathy of all that she went through in her life and the loss of her great talent, it makes me think of her impact on my own religious experience.
The JCC of Manhattan will broadcast a live memorial service at 5pm PST tonight. Friedman, a popular singer and songwriter who is widely credited with reinvigorating synagogue music, died Sunday after being hospitalized in Orange County for several days with pneumonia. She was in her late 50s.
Debbie Friedman, a popular singer and songwriter who is widely credited with reinvigorating synagogue music, has died. Friedman died Sunday after being hospitalized in Orange County for several days with pneumonia. She was in her late 50s.
Songwriter Debbie Friedman has been hospitalized in Orange County, Calif. Friedman is reportedly sedated and on a respirator, according to an email sent Wednesday from the West Coast office of the Union for Reform Judaism. The email asked that prayers be said on Friedman's behalf, as well as for her mother, sister and aunt. A spokesperson for the URJ told JTA the union has received no further updates on Friedman's condition.
When singer-songwriter Debbie Friedman steps in front of the class at the Reform movement’s cantorial school this fall, she’ll be crossing more than a physical threshold.
OySongs.com is the first music download site dedicated exclusively to Jewish music and, with the Web site about a month old, its founder, Joe Eglash, is still breathless from excitement.
When her first liturgical tune popped into Debbie Friedman's head almost 30 years ago, she had no clue that she would become the queen of contemporary American Jewish music.
It's tenor time in the Borscht Belt next week. The cantors are coming to the Catskills, close to 400 of them, from Conservative synagogues across the country. With spouses and sundry fans in tow, they'll be descending on Kutsher's Country Club, one of the last of the region's great Jewish watering holes, for three days of music and prayer. It's the annual convention of the Cantors' Assembly.