Date posted: 2/22/16
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World-renowned songwriter and performer Debbie Friedman, z’’l, had a unique ability to touch the lives of the people with whom she came into contact, and inspired an even larger community of people throughout the globe who were moved by her music. She joined the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) faculty in 2007 and inspired HUC-JIR’s students through her creativity and musical talents, helped guide their spiritual and leadership development, and provided them with innovative strategies to transform congregations into communities of learning and meaning. The Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music (DFSSM) at HUC-JIR was named in her memory in 2011 to honor her singular contributions to religious worship, spiritual renewal, and the Jewish people.
In observance of Debbie Friedman’s fifth yahrzeit, and in celebration of her legacy, the DFSSM held a Kumsitz (sing-along) on Thursday, January 28, 2016 at HUC-JIR/New York. The evening of music and memory was led by Debbie’s friends: Jill Abramson, Ellen Allard, Elana Arian, Merri Lovinger Arian, Ivan Barenboim, Bat Ella Birnbaum, Rosalie Boxt, Richard Cohn, Ellen Dreskin, Danny Freelander, Jeff Klepper, Shira Kline, Benny Koonyevsky, Jack Mendelson, Josh Nelson, Carole Rivel, Joyce Rosenzweig, Benjie Ellen Schiller, Leon Sher, Peri Smilow, and the DFSSM Choir.
“Debbie Friedman’s relationships with alumni and faculty continue to resonate not only in our hearts, but also in the work we’re doing in congregations and with current students. The wider community of singer-songwriters and Jewish musicians inspired by Debbie helps transform her memory into new possibilities,” shares Cantor Richard Cohn, Director of the DFSSM. “This year’s Kumsitz was an opportunity to both reflect on and celebrate the creative spirit that is her legacy.”
Merri Lovinger Arian, Faculty in Liturgical Arts, Music Education, and Conducting, DFSSM, and coordinator of the annual Kumsitz, says, “As the Mishnah teaches, ‘find yourself a teacher and you will acquire for yourself a friend.’ We found that person in Debbie Friedman. Her musical interpretations of text opened our hearts to the teachings of our tradition. She inspired a generation of teachers, honoring the dreams of our elders, and inspiring the visions of our youth! Debbie’s music continues to teach and inspire us, offering us promise and hope.”