RIP Debbie Friedman
January 9, 2011 12:07 PM   Subscribe

Debbie Friedman passed away today. She was the most well known and influential composer of Jewish music and litergy in the United States. The Jerusalem Post says that "Friedman’s music is performed in synagogues around the world more than that of any other modern composer." Her most well known song is a setting of Mi Shebeirach, a prayer for healing.
posted by kdern (24 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I plan to write a bit about this for my column tomorrow. If anybody has any memories of Ms. Friedman they would like to share, please memail me or contact me via the email in my profile.

I grew up hearing her music, and this is a sad day.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:14 PM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is very sad and unexpected news.
posted by mosk at 12:18 PM on January 9, 2011

So sad. She lived on the upper west side of Manhattan, where my wife works and I used to work. We both used to see her all the time in the area, and of course my kids are growing up with her music just as we did. She had a wonderful way of evoking emotions from dry Jewish prayers and holidays. Helping her audiences connect to the religion and its traditions on a deeper level.

When a Jew dies, those in mourning who are religious are supposed to refrain from enjoying entertainment, which includes listening to live or recorded music or dancing. But so much of her life was spent celebrating Jewish culture through song that it seems a shame to turn away from that now. Her website contains a downloadable mp3 of her song Mourning into Dancing. Video.

posted by zarq at 12:35 PM on January 9, 2011

I've played guitar and led services for various chavurot and alt.Jewish groups for the past 10 years. I've made no secret of the fact that I didn't like her music as much as I had as a kid. My tastes are more Chassidic (Carlebach), Sephardic, and Mizrahi.

That said, we still faithfully sang her Mi Shebeirach at every service. "Lechi Lach" was sang for people moving away on a journey, and it always provoked tears of sadness and joy.

If you went to Jewish camp or were a kid growing up in a Reform shul during the 80's, you heard her music ALL THE TIME. She probably has revolutionized Jewish liturgy in a way no other artist has since Shlomo Carlebach. To say she was influential would be a serious understatement.

Baruch dayan emet

Lechi lach to a land that I will show you
Lech li-cha to a place you do not know
Lechi lach on your journey I will bless you
And you shall be a blessing, you shall be a blessing
You shall be a blessing lechi lach

Lechi lach and I shall make your name great
Lech li-cha and all shall praise your name
Lechi lach to the place that I will show you
Li-simchat chayim, li-simchat chayim
Li-simchat chayim lechi lach.
And you shall be a blessing, you shall be a blessing
You shall be a blessing lechi lach.
- "Lechi Lach" (Friedman z"l)
posted by zooropa at 12:58 PM on January 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

posted by Ahab at 12:59 PM on January 9, 2011

May her name be a blessing.

Mi shebeirach avoteinu
M'kor habracha l'imoteinu

May the source of strength who blessed the ones before us,
Help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing
And let us say: Amen.

Mi shebeirach imoteinu
M'kor habracha l'avoteinu

Bless those in need of healing with refuah sh'leimah
The renewal of body, the renewal of spirit
And let us say: Amen.

posted by ottereroticist at 1:17 PM on January 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

posted by hopeless romantique at 1:29 PM on January 9, 2011

posted by pinky at 1:41 PM on January 9, 2011

posted by Wordwoman at 2:09 PM on January 9, 2011

For those of you not in the loop, you have to understand that she was huge, the Elvis of reform and conservative congregations. *Every* Jewish child who grew up in the 80s or 90s has sung at least one of her songs.

I know my mother, a Jewish music teacher for several years, really admired her and will be saddened by the news. I have great memories of singing Debbie Friedman's songs.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:36 PM on January 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Man, this is unfortunate. I went through childhood singing her songs (mostly without knowing it). I was sad when I graduated to adult services and discovered that our "real" liturgical music was much more solemn and less joyful.
posted by threeants at 3:11 PM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by albrecht at 3:27 PM on January 9, 2011

posted by Arbac at 3:38 PM on January 9, 2011

I, too, have extensively used her eminently singable, accessible liturgical music in spite of the dated feel of the "folk service". Without her work, the currently fashionable singing independent minyanim (small prayer groups), who also use a lot of Hassidic-inspired Shlomo Carlebach melodies, would never have had fertile ground to grow.
What is missing from the coverage of her loss is the fact that Debbie was a lesbian, which public knowledge would have made her music much less accepted. I hope her surviving partner(s) and family are getting the support they need.
posted by Dreidl at 4:13 PM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by milestogo at 6:22 PM on January 9, 2011

posted by Obscure Reference at 7:05 PM on January 9, 2011

posted by yellowcandy at 9:48 PM on January 9, 2011

posted by jasper411 at 7:32 AM on January 10, 2011

This is upsetting. Friedman's music really transformed my experience of Judaism, in the best possible way. Peace to you, Deborah.

posted by bearwife at 9:43 AM on January 10, 2011

posted by ericbop at 11:18 AM on January 10, 2011

posted by AngerBoy at 5:30 PM on January 10, 2011

Anyone interested in contributing - or reading - memories of Debbie Friedman's life and work can take a look at tweets tagged with #rememberingdebbie.

Tehi zichronah livrachah.
posted by AngerBoy at 5:34 PM on January 10, 2011

Whoops, sorry. One more. There's also this tribute page, hosted by the URJ, which includes a "map of remembrances."
posted by AngerBoy at 5:35 PM on January 10, 2011

For any women living in Pittsburgh, there will be a free sing-along of her music, with lyric sheets and a guitarist as accompaniment, this evening at 8:00 at Rodef Shalom, to mark the shloshim.
posted by palliser at 2:24 PM on February 7, 2011

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