|Birth name||Deborah Lynn Friedman|
February 23, 1951|
Utica, New York
|Died||January 9, 2011
Mission Viejo, California
Deborah Lynn "Debbie" Friedman (February 23, 1951 – January 9, 2011) was an American singer-songwriter of Jewish religious songs and melodies. She was born in Utica, New York, but moved with her family to Minnesota at age 6. She is best known for her setting of "Mi Shebeirach", the prayer for healing, which is used by hundreds of congregations across America. Her songs were used by some Orthodox Jewish congregations, as well as non-Orthodox Jewish congregations. Ms. Friedman was a feminist, and Orthodox Jewish feminist Blu Greenberg noted that while Ms. Friedman’s music impacted most on Reform and Conservative liturgy, "she had a large impact [in] Modern Orthodox shuls, women’s tefillah [prayer], the Orthodox feminist circles.... She was a religious bard and angel for the entire community."
Debbie was the daughter of Freda and Gabriel Friedman.
She wrote many of her early songs as a song leader at the overnight camp Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, in the early 1970s. Between 1971 and 2010 she recorded 22 albums. Her work was inspired by such diverse sources as Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary, and a number of other folk music artists. Friedman employed both English and Hebrew lyrics and wrote for all ages. Some of her songs include "The Aleph Bet Song", "Miriam's Song", and the songs "Not By Might" and "I am a Latke". She also performed in synagogues and concert halls.
Friedman had suffered since the 1990s from a neurological condition, with effects apparently similar to multiple sclerosis. The story of her music, as well as the challenges she faced in living with illness, were featured in a 2004 documentary film about Friedman called A Journey of Spirit, produced by Ann Coppel, which followed her from 1997 to 2002.
In 2007, Friedman accepted an appointment to the faculty of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion's School of Sacred Music in New York (now called the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music) where she instructed both rabbinic and cantorial students.
Friedman was a lesbian but thought publicly acknowledging her sexuality would threaten her income and did not talk about it in public. Her obituary in the New York Times was thus the first time her sexual identity was publicized.
Death and legacy
Rabbi David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, announced on January 27, 2011 that the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion's School of Sacred Music would be renamed the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music. On December 7, 2011, it was officially renamed as such.
In 2014 the book Sing Unto God: The Debbie Friedman Anthology was published; it features "every song she wrote and recorded (plus more than 30 songs previously unavailable) in lead sheet format, with complete lyrics, melody line, guitar chords, Hebrew, transliteration, and English translation."
- Songs of the Spirit- The Debbie Friedman Anthology
- Light These Lights
- Debbie Friedman Live at the Del
- The Water in the Well
- The Alef Bet
- Debbie Friedman at Carnegie Hall
- The World of Your Dreams
- And You Shall Be a Blessing
- Ani Ma-Amin
- Not by Might Not by Power (Sound 80 Records, 1974)
- Sing Unto God
- One People
- As You Go On Your Way: Shacharit - The Morning Prayers
- It's You
- Shalom Aleichem
- Friedman was a 1969 alumna of Highland Park High School in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in 1999. She was also an honorary member of the American Conference of Cantors.
- Cohen, Debra Nussbaum, Debbie Friedman, Beloved Jewish Composer and Performer, Dead at 59, The Forward, January 9, 2011
- Horn, Jordana, Beloved US Jewish songwriter, Debbie Friedman, dies, The Jerusalem Post, January 9, 2011
- Woo, Elaine, Debbie Friedman, self-taught Jewish folk singer, dies at 59, Los Angeles Times, January 11, 2011
- Fox, Margalit, Debbie Friedman, Singer of Jewish Music, Dies at 59, New York Times, January 11, 2011
- "Beloved Singer Debbie Friedman Dead at 59". The Advocate. 2011-01-11. Retrieved 2011-01-24.
- "Debbie Friedman’s Gift". The Jewish Week. 2011-01-11.
- "Forward 50, 2010". The Jewish Daily Forward. 26 October 2010. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
- Theiner, Manny (2008-05-01). "Jewish folk-singer Debbie Friedman performs at Temple Sinai". Pittsburgh City Paper. Retrieved 2008-09-23.
- Coppel, Ann (2002). "A Journey of Spirit". Ann Coppel Productions. Retrieved 2008-09-23.
- Klug, Lisa Alcalay. "Debbie Friedman's Spiritual Undertaking", The Jerusalem Post, 12 December 2004.
- Fishkoff, Sue (2007-07-13). "Camp fire to academy: Popular singer teaches Reform cantors". JTA.org. Retrieved 2008-09-23.
- Route 17 (2013-11-27). "Debbie Friedman Talks About Being Gay". The Jewish Week. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
- Debbie Friedman, Jewish songwriter and performer, dies, JTA, January 9, 2011.
- "Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music Renaming at HUC-JIR/New York". Huc.edu. 2011-12-07. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
- http://www.huc.edu/newspubs/pressroom/article.php?pressroomid=1950. Missing or empty
- "URJ Books And Music :: Music - Song Books, Folios and Instrumental :: Sing Unto God: The Debbie Friedman Anthology". Urjbooksandmusic.com. 2013-12-11. Retrieved 2015-02-14.
- World class education in a nurturing urban environment. "Highland Park High School Hall of Fame". Highlandsr.spps.org. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
- Debbie Friedman website
- Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution from the Jewish Women's Archive
- A Journey of Spirit
- Debbie Friedman Tributes Page (URJ)