The word went out last night, Debbie Friedman is dead. Dead at age 59 of pneumonia. And we are all grieving. Friedman was singer, musician and a songwriter who made an indelible imprint on liberal, particularly Reform, Jewish liturgy.
In the year 2011, with her revolution well won and her signature sound anchored so deeply in a time past (1970's and 80's folk pop), it's easy to forget how radical a presence she was. She's possibly overshadowed only by Shlomo Carlebach as the most important Jewish liturgical composer of the 20th century. She was pivotal in the translation of the Reform camp liturgy into a synagogue form and in the defining of the 'songleader' cantorial style. She carved out a space not just for a woman's participation in Jewish prayer, but created a body of work that placed woman's experience, in both Torah and contemporary life, as central to the prayer experience.
This past Shabbat, my synagogue and countless others sang Friedman's "Mi Shebeirach," hoping for her healing. This Shabbat we'll sing kaddish for her. She'll be missed.
I'd thought to share a favorite Friedman video but I'll skip that. You can find a zillion on YouTube. Instead, here's a much more fitting testimony, from YouTube user sweetandsourgal3.