Leaders of the area’s Jewish LGBT community rejoiced today after the Supreme Court ruled that part of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to same-sex couples, was unconstitutional. The court also paved the way for a return of same-sex marriage to California in a separate case by dismissing an appeal to Proposition 8 that banned such marriages.
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.