December 13, 2018

Debbie Friedman: She will be missed

Composer, Jewish liturgist, singer-songwriter, prayer leader extraordinaire, member of the lgbt community—Debbie touched our lives in ways too many to count.

It was Debbie Friedman who taught the liberal Jewish world to pray for healing and just as there were special prayers offered worldwide (including at BCC) over the last few days for her healing, so now will there be prayers offered with the intent to comfort the many who mourn her loss, and to bring her soul to rest under the wings of Shekhinah.

She started out as a camp counselor and song leader who brought modern melodies of Jewish prayers to Jewish camps. Soon she began composing, singing, and sharing music that changed the landscape of not just Jewish song but Jewish thought as well. Thousands of people sang the word – “emotainu” even before they knew what the word meant! The power of her music raised a whole new generation of Jews who sang prayers and songs that included women and women of the Torah.

While many congregations regularly include Debbie Friedman songs and liturgy in their prayers and prayerbooks, BCC’s prayerbook includes this special note under her song, Lechi-lach: “This song, based on Genesis 12:1-2, was written by Debbie Friedman and BCC member Savina Teubal, z’l, for the Simchat Chochma (“joy of wisdom”) ceremony that Savina created on the occasion of her 60th birthday. This ceremony, at which this song premiered, took place at Beth Chayim Chadashim, Los Angeles in November 1986 on Shabbat Lech Lecha.”

Numerous BCC members count Debbie Friedman among their friends, still more count her songs as significant influences on our lives, and all of BCC’s clergy count her among our important teachers and role models. She taught us so much, brought us so much. She will be missed, even as we know that the many gifts she gave us—not only her songs, but a different way to pray—will live on, continuing to bless us in moments of sorrow and joy.

Written by BCC clergy Rabbi Lisa Edwards, Cantor Juval Porat, Cantorial Soloist Emerita Fran Chalin, and BCC Executive Director Felicia Park-Rogers.