Reflecting on Debbie Friedman’s legacy

Noa Kattler Kupetz

Staff Writer

Memories of my childhood are laced with a soundtrack, and Debbie Friedman is one of the featured artists. I distinctly remember sitting in the car, singing along to Friedman’s “Miriam’s Song,” the female perspective of the Passover story. Whether dancing to “The Latke Song” on Hanukkah or joyfully ranting “Happy Thanksgiving” at our November feast, a Debbie Friedman song has never been far from one of my family gatherings.

I always felt a special connection to her music, perhaps because I felt pride in my grandmother’s close relationship with her through their work at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute, or the fact that I’d actually met the person who created many of the tunes we sang daily in tefillot at school and at synagogue.

At LimmudLA two years ago, I saw Debbie for the last time. She was in poor health, and had to stop singing multiple times throughout her performance due to coughing fits. It was scary to see the woman behind the melodies I cherished so deeply fighting just to breathe. Debbie Friedman has left behind more than a collection of music. Her melodies have made praying enjoyable for me, and have strengthened my connection to the Jewish community. I cannot imagine singing L’cha Dodi or the Mi Sheberach to another tune and feeling so passionate about the words escaping my mouth.

The Monday night following her passing, my family gathered to hear a short segment on Debbie covered by National Public Radio.  I had never considered the fact that some of the most influential composers of current liturgical music like Debbie and Craig Taubman were people my parents grew up with, who I have always known, even personally.

This is a finality that feels both personal and communal and just too soon. My children will pray to Debbie’s melodies, and will be touched, just as I am, by the blessings she sang to our community. That’s what great artists and leaders do—they influence individuals and communities beyond their time. Thank you Debbie, if only you could still be here to share a few more songs with us.


Debbie Friedman performing “Mourning into Dancing.”

Read Rachel Kaye’s news feature:

Featured image: