In Memoriam: Debbie Friedman

Debbie Friedman

We at The Jewish Theological Seminary were grief-stricken to hear of the death of Debbie Friedman. Debbie was an acclaimed musician and songwriter for more than three decades, but above all, she was a passionate Jew who consistently touched Jewish hearts and souls. Debbie said about her work, "From the beginning of my career, I've tried to help people see how prayer can be a source of comfort in both good times and bad." And because of what she showed them, for untold thousands of people, on many occasions, prayer was that comfort. Debbie's songs reached people with hope and sustained faith. Debbie Friedman created a whole new genre of accessible Jewish music by setting the prayers, teachings, and melodies of ancient Jewish texts to contemporary music, and in so doing she taught us how to "sing a new song to the Lord." She got to see her work performed in synagogues worldwide more often than that of any other living composer.

Cantorial soloist, music director, teacher, composer, performer, healer, friend: all of these titles celebrated Debbie Friedman. Some will justly measure her success by the fact that she released over 20 albums and sold out shows at Carnegie Hall and hundreds of cities around the world. Others, touched, uplifted, or healed by her music, know that in these ways, too, her contributions to the Jewish people will outlive her. She forms a crucial part of the continuity that joins this generation of Jews to our ancestors and to our descendants in the Jewish community of the future. May her memory be for a blessing.

Arnold M. Eisen
Chancellor, JTS