And You Shall Be A Blessing: Debbie Friedman z”l (1951-2011), prologue

In Memoriam:  Deborah Lynn Friedman (ASCAP), Dina Leah bat Freidl v’Gavriel ז”ל

I’ve been trying to get something written for two days and it won’t be ready for a while yet.  There’s so much to say and, therefore, so much to sort through and not say.   But I have to get these three events posted, so the personal reminiscences and thoughts will have to come later.  Her life intertwined with that of my family over 4 generations, both musically and personally.  Personally in very small ways, and musically in significant ways.

TODAY, Tuesday 1/11/11: Funeral service will be streamed live from Cong. Beth Shalom, Santa Ana, CA via, starting just before 11am Pacific time – 2pm New York time.  Made possible by OSRUI and the other URJ camps.

EREV SHABBAT, Friday 1/14/11: Shabbat Shirah service this Fri, 1/14 at 7:30pm with the Berith Sholom Choir Congregation Berith Sholom will celebrate this year’s “Shabbat of Song” mingled with grief for our loss of the woman who first taught 20th-century Jews to sing ancient words to new tunes.

Michael Lorge wrote a sweet remembrance of those earliest years as a songleader at Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute in Oconomowoc, WI.  That’s the summer camp that changed my Jewish life, too — the first of the Reform Jewish summer camps, where my mother and my spouse also went.  And its director all these years, Jerry Kaye, is the first one who gave Debbie the space and safety to experiment publicly with new Jewish music.  He was at her bedside in California last week while she struggled with pneumonia and NPR cited him yesterday as “a family spokesman.”  (If you’re near Chicago, look up the Chicago Jewish Festival website to get info about their informal singing gathering on Thursday night.)

By the way, that NPR bit is worth listening to, not just reading.  It begins by talking about Congresswoman Gifford’s congregation in Tucson and their singing of Debbie’s Mi Shebeirach, her prayer for healing, on the day the Congresswoman was shot.  The tune is played sweetly in the background — violin, I think.  I’ve been thinking about these two Jewish women, linked now by the events of two days ago.  Each of whom was inspired by our tradition of Tikkun Olam, fixing the world, to use her gifts to try to leave the world better than she found it.

MOTSA’EI SHABBAT, Saturday 1/15/11: All are invited to an informal gathering to celebrate & mourn Debbie this Saturday night, January 15, at Congregation Berith Sholom, 167 Third St, Troy.    Beginning at 6pm with Havdalah (her tune, of course).  Dairy/ veggie potluck (fish ok if it has fins & scales, no shellfish or eels.).  Bring instruments, songbooks, memories.  Parking available down the alley.  Please publicize.

Reminder to my classically-trained musician friends: Think summer camp.  We’ll try to call out keys, as songleaders must call out “Capo 2!”, but you can count on absolutely nothing being played – or sung – as written. Remember, Debbie herself didn’t read music – well, it’s hard to believe that she didn’t pick it up somewhere along the way, in at least rudimentary form.  But the written page was neither how she either composed nor how she transmitted her music. It’s the living transmission and sharing that she enabled, and that’s what we’re going to do Saturday night.

Zichronah livrachah — may her memory continue to be the blessing that her life has been.  And may the One who comforts all the brokenhearted, be felt through us, as we attempt to comfort each other.