1. I love her!
2. I hate her!
3. Who’s that?
If you fall into group 3, I’ll answer your question. Debbie Friedman is a Jewish singer and songwriter who is known for her many iconic melodies. If you went to Hebrew school and learned that repeating alphabet song (“Aleph, bet, vet, aleph, bet, vet…”), you’ve sung Debbie Friedman. If you’ve been to services and heard a prayer for healing called the Mi Shebeirach, you’ve probably sung Debbie Friedman. She even wrote a tune for the Sh’ma that synagogues worldwide sing (often without knowing it was Debbie Friedman). The woman has truly made her mark on Judaism. She’s probably the most famous Jewish recording artist ever. Her concerts are regularly sold out, filled with people who not only stand up and sing her songs along with her, but who also dance up and down the aisles.
I heard yesterday that Debbie Friedman is sick. I don’t know a lot of details, but she is in the hospital and there are issues with her breathing. It doesn’t sound good. The emails that I received asked everyone to pray for her recovery, and hope for a miracle.
I was floored when I read this. Shocked, saddened, and upset. And I was surprised at my depth of feeling. I mean, I don’t really know the woman. I’ve seen her in concert a couple of times and I think I met her in person once at a conference. But then I took stock and realized why. The reason is, well… I am one of those people who, when hearing “Debbie Friedman,” says, “I love her!” I think that she is an incredible performer, and even though some of her songs can be a little bit overproduced, I still love her stuff.
Back in my high school youth group days, her music was what we loved to sing because it was the most modern. Though it wasn’t as cool, say, as The Cranberries and Alanis Morissette that were on the radio (now you know how old I am), Debbie Friedman’s music felt new, not like the old prayers that had been around for centuries. This music was one of the reasons that I grew to love Judaism, and eventually to become a Jewish educator, which led me to work for Kveller.
So in truth I owe a huge debt to Debbie. Her music helped set me on this path. Tonight I will sing her Mi Shebeirach, her prayer for healing, and I will think of her, and I will pray that prayer makes a difference. I hope you’ll join me.
And though the following video is kind of irreverent (especially right now), I still think it shows the depth of feeling that Debbie’s music inspires. This is the greatest Debbie Friedman cover band to ever live…perhaps the only Debbie Friedman cover band. I believe that they tease because they love. Enjoy.
(For an overview of Debbie Friedman’s life and impact on Judaism, check out this video on YouTube).
I wish you a Shabbat filled with healing and peace for you and the ones you love.