Debbie Friedman dies in California

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The New York-born Debbie Friedman, legendary American Jewish composer and singer, died in her late 50s after a few days of hospitalization. Debbie is credited with creating a whole new genre of contemporary, accessible Jewish music. She is best known for her composition “Mi Shebeirach,” a prayer for healing that is sung in many North American congregations.

Over the course of her distinguished career Debbie Friedman, has released over 20 albums and performed in sold out concerts at Carnegie Hall and in hundreds of cities around the world. Her work has been lauded by industry critics and she has been honored by numerous national and international organizations with their most prestigious awards.

Friedman began her career in the 1970s when she started writing liturgical music as a group song leader at the Union for Reform Judaism’s Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute summer camp.  She incorporated ancient texts into contemporary melodies to make them more accessible to a wider audience, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Debbie influenced and enriched contemporary Jewish music in a profound way. Her music crossedgenerational and denominational lines and carved a powerful legacy of authentic Jewish spirituality into our daily lives,” reads a Union for Reform Judaism statement.

During her 35-year career, she released over 20 albums and performed in concerts worldwide at synagogues, schools and venues such as Carnegie Hall.

By creating a whole new genre of Jewish music, Debbie was able to reintroduce authentic Jewish spirituality,” said Rabbi Daniel Freedlander, vice president of the Union for Reform Judaism, in a statement. “She wrote melodies that spoke to us, spoke to our intellect, spoke to our emotions.”

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” – Debbie once told – “This is particularly the case with my latest CD, As You Go On Your Way: Shacharit – The Morning Prayers, which I hope will give people the opportunity to pray in an intimate and personal way with the goal of helping them get through these difficult times. I want to help people to begin their day with an open heart; to learn to pray in a comfortable, non-threatening way. Maybe, they’ll first experience it as music but, over time, they may learn the prayers. In this time of tremendous uncertainty, when so many are feeling anxious and stressed, the comfort and sense of peace that prayer brings is a wonderful thing. To be able to start your day that way, is even better.

Debbie Friedman, who blended American folk music with Hebrew liturgical texts to produce popular sing-along style synagogue music, died of pneumonia in a California hospital on Sunday. (Photography by Michael Fox via Jewish Journal)

To buy CDs/listen to samples click here (iTunes)

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