Debbie Friedman remembered at funeral in words and song


LOS ANGELES (JTA) — Singer-songwriter Debbie Friedman was eulogized at her funeral by friends, rabbis and fellow musicians in words and through her songs.

Her acoustic guitar lay on top of her casket during Tuesday’s funeral service at Temple Beth Sholom in Santa Ana, Calif., the Orange County Register reported.

Friedman, whose music transformed Jewish worship in synagogues and summer camps, died Jan. 9 at the age of 59 after being diagnosed with pneumonia and admitted to a hospital a few days earlier.

She blended the folk music roots of the 1960s and 1970s and combined them with traditional Jewish prayers and liturgy, and was frequently described as the "Joan Baez of Jewish song."

Mourners at the service joined Craig Taubman and other performers in singing such famous Friedman works as "Sing Unto God," "Devorah’s Song," "You Are The One," "Miriam’s Song" and "L’chi Lach."

Perhaps Friedman’s best-known composition is "Mi Shebeirach," a popular version of the prayer of healing for the sick.

During the funeral, Rabbi Heidi Cohen of Temple Beth Sholom described Friedman as a modest artist, despite her fame.

"If Debbie were here today, she would say, ‘What’s the big fuss? I don’t need this. I don’t want this,’ " Cohen said.

Rabbi Richard Levy of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles said of his former colleague, "Debbie wanted us to believe that God is good and God takes our prayers seriously. Even though all our prayers did not [heal her], they provided an escort into the next world that sang unto God, this woman is going to rock your throne."

Also Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council adjourned its meeting in memory of Friedman, whom Council member Paul Koretz eulogized saying "Anyone who has ever attended a liberal Jewish synagogue or summer camp or youth group event has been touched by Debbie Friedman."

He added, "She was always ahead of the curve — be it in songs for lifecycle events, Jewish feminist music or interfaith spirituality. May her memory, and her music, be a blessing."

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