09 January 2011

Debbie Friedman: Her music will live on

The last time I heard Debbie Friedman sing live was at a standing-room-only concert at Valley Beth Shalom (Encino, California), decades ago.

The audience of more than a thousand people of all ages knew her songs, sang and clapped along with her classics, such as "Not By Might."

Combining Hebrew text with English translations opened her music to a huge worldwide audience and an entire generation.

Her tunes were catchy; once you heard them, they were in your head forever. I often find myself humming the melodies.

While her music will continue to inspire, the Jewish world has today lost a musical treasure. Debbie Friedman died today (Sunday, January 9) after a hospitalization for pneumonia in Southern California.

Her composition, "Mi Shebeirach" - a healing prayer - is sung in many American congregations. Her songs are standards at youth activities, Jewish summer camps, music camps, Jewish educator conferences and other venues.

Although officially connected to the Reform movement, her music transcended all denominational lines.

According to JTA's story today:
"Debbie influenced and enriched contemporary Jewish music in a profound way," read a statement published Sunday on the website of the Union for Reform Judaism. "Her music crossed generational and denominational lines and carved a powerful legacy of authentic Jewish spirituality into our daily lives."
Friedman brought a more folksy, sing-along style to American congregations. In 2007 she was appointed to the faculty of the Reform movement's cantorial school in a sign that her style had gained mainstream acceptance."

She released more than 20 albums and performed sold-out concerts around the world at synagogues, churches, schools and prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall. She received dozens of awards and was lauded by critics worldwide.

"Debbie Friedman was an extraordinary treasure of our movement and an individual of great influence," said Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism. "Twenty-five years ago, North American Jews had forgotten how to sing. Debbie reminded us how to sing, she taught us how to sing. She gave us the vehicles that enabled us to sing. Then she impacted our youth and our camps and, ultimately, from there she impacted our synagogues.

"What happens in the synagogues of Reform Judaism today -- the voices of song -- are in large measure due to the insight, brilliance and influence of Debbie Friedman."
Another JTA story on Friedman, by Sue Fishkoff, can be read here ("70s rebel takes job at cantorial school").

Check out many videos on YouTube.com, such as a 2008 tribute to her music here. Among her most famous compositions: And the Youth Shall See Visions, Lechi Lach, Mourning into Dancing and others.

No comments:

Post a Comment