Zuckerberg cited Debbie Friedman: “May the source of strength who blessed the ones before us, help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing.”
Whether it’s first love or night swimming, many American Jews have nostalgic memories from Jewish summer camp. For URJ’s Kutz Camp, those memories just turned 50 years old.
To get us in the spirit of the Seder, here are a few songs of exodus, freedom, rebellion and an only kid. We’ve got selections by Bruce Springsteen, Chava Alberstein, Pete Seeger, Moishe Oysher, Bob Dylan, Shuli Nathan, Paul Robeson, Paul Simon, Lahakat HaNachal, the Maccabeats and many more, including two late and very much lamented friends, Debbie Friedman and Meir Ariel. Also Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
Debbie Friedman would have been riveted by Jodie Foster coming out of the closet on national TV. But she would want to know the actress did it on her own terms.
Due to my husband’s long work hours, dinner at our house is often ladies night, adapted for the Mommy-and-Me set. Like any top chef, I start Lila’s meal with an amuse bouche. That is, I let Lila chomp on some Cheerios, while I design that night’s dinner menu. Sometimes Lila and I just chat over dinner — her comments made largely in Lilese — but on most nights, we have musical accompaniment.
When my husband David was little, “Shabbat Can Be,” a 1979 children’s book, was a regular accompaniment of his family’s Friday night dinners. I had learned early on in our romance that David’s family had been more observant than mine. David would tell me stories about sitting on his mother’s lap at weekly services, and singing and dancing around the dinner table with his sisters. It wasn’t though until I stumbled upon “Shabbat Can Be” on David’s mother’s bookshelf one day that I came closest to understanding what Shabbat had meant to David growing up. The illustrations, had a groovy “Brady Bunch” feel and the text, bore out its central Reform-infused message —that the rituals and meanings of Shabbat were adaptable. They were not inherited but actively made and remade in the space and time of the Sabbath.
Something didn’t sound quite right to me at last week’s dedication of the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music, the cantorial school at the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion.
The Jewish world lost a great light with the untimely death of Debbie Friedman on January 9. She was an inspiration to multiple generations of song-leaders and Jewish musicians, congregants, campers, students, friends, rabbis, cantors and educators. Her impact on Jewish music and worship has been so widely felt across the Jewish spectrum, across movements, across generations and across oceans that it leaves a massive, gaping, black hole —dense with energy and aching with potential.
I hadn’t spoken to Debbie Friedman in many weeks and had only seen her once since she moved back to California. Still, I had to try. I sent her an email asking if she was coming to New York anytime soon, that I needed her. Ten minutes later, she emailed me back. “Is it Deb?” she asked. I’ll never know how she remembered that my cousin, whom she had seen at many Healing Services that she and I led together at the JCC in Manhattan, was ill. I’ll never know how she knew that my cousin was dying. I only know that everyone who knew Debbie has a story like this.