“An Evening with Debbie & Friends” Concert to Benefit Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and its School of Sacred Music November 12th at 6 pm at Central Synagogue, New York

Thursday, October 8, 2009

“An Evening with Debbie & Friends” – a concert celebrating the creativity of world-renowned folk songwriter and performer Debbie Friedman to benefit Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) and its School of Sacred Music – will take place on Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 6 p.m. at Central Synagogue, Lexington Avenue at 55th Street, in New York City.  The music of Debbie Friedman will be performed by Debbie Friedman and feature The Afro-Semitic Experience, HaZamir, The Western Wind, Alumni, Faculty, Students, and surprise guests.  Honorary Celebrity Co-Chairs are Jason Robert Brown, Mandy Patinkin, and Paul Schaffer.  Concert Co-chairs are Barbara Friedman and Bonnie Tisch.  Benefit Committee Co-Chairs are Marjorie and Morgan Miller.

Tickets are $250 to $2500.  For invitation/rsvp, please go to: http://huc.edu/external/email/09/07/savethedate/

This concert launches HUC-JIR’s Cantorial Invest-in-a-Student Campaign, headed by Cantor Claire Franco. Cantorial alumni are supporting the education of their emerging colleagues and successors through this initiative in which donors sponsor students for their five years of study at HUC-JIR, from the Year-in-Israel through investiture.  These scholarships are an essential means of encouraging students with the highest academic and musical standards, and most passionate commitment to Judaism, to become the Jewish cantorial leaders of the future. Scholarships assist students to overcome financial obstacles – undergraduate debt, family obligations for second career students, and limited resources –and enable those aspiring to careers of Jewish musical leadership to embark upon lives of service to the Jewish people. 

Debbie Friedman, the world-renowned,is Instructor in Music at the School of Sacred Music at HUC-JIR/New York. Friedman’s lyrical interpretations of liturgy and biblical verse have reached a generation of Jews looking to connect to the words of their heritage through music. A singer, songwriter, and guitarist, she has recorded 19 albums, including many songs that have become so much a part of many synagogues’ liturgy as to be considered “traditional.”

“Debbie Friedman is inspiring our students through her creativity and musical talents, helping to guide their spiritual and leadership development, and providing them with innovative strategies to transform congregations into communities of meaning,” says Rabbi David Ellenson, HUC-JIR President. “She is strengthening HUCJIR’s role in the area of worship renewal and revitalization in our day.”

Friedman is enriching the fabric of student life by teaching “Music as Midrash,” a course for rabbinical, cantorial, and education students that explores the spiritual core of Jewish texts as a source for songs, sermons, and study. In addition, she serves as Artist-in-Residence, coaches cantorial students, and participates in worship services and other areas of the School of Sacred Music curriculum. The students in all programs at the Cincinnati and Los Angeles campuses also benefit from her presence as visiting instructor during the course of the academic year.

In 1996 Friedman celebrated the 25th anniversary of her musical career with a concert at Carnegie Hall. She has performed in hundreds of cities in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Israel, and has appeared before national conventions and conferences for major Jewish organizations and particularly the Reform Movement, including the Union for Reform Judaism, National Association of Temple Educators, National Association of Temple Administrators, Central Conference of American Rabbis,Women of Reform Judaism,World Union for Progressive Judaism, and National Federation of Temple Youth. She served as cantorial soloist for three years at the New Reform Congregation in Los Angeles, California. As a music educator, she directed the music component of the intensive Hebrew Chalutzim program at Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, where she continues to co-lead Hava Nashira, the annual song leading and music workshop she created. She has served on the faculty of HUC- JIR’s Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health, and the Union for Reform Judaism’s summer Kallah programs held at Brandeis University, the University of California at Santa Cruz, and Franklin Pierce College.

The School of Sacred Music (SSM) at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York is the only Reform Jewish cantorial school in North America and the nation’s oldest institution dedicated to training cantors.

Founded in 1948, the SSM was created at a time when the Holocaust had nearly severed the continuity of the Jewish people’s cultural heritage. The SSM dedicated itself as a guarantor that the musical traditions of the past would survive and be enhanced by the creativity of new generations.  With a mission to teach, preserve, and promote Jewish liturgical music and train cantors for the Reform Movement and the Klal Yisrael, the SSM gathered a distinguished faculty, began publishing out-of-print classics, and established an academic and cultural center for Jewish music with the Hazzan – the Cantor –  at its center.

Since its founding, the SSM has trained 451 cantors who serve communities throughout North America, Israel and around the world.  Among these alumni are the 193 women cantors who have graduated from the cantorial program since 1975, when HUC-JIR invested the first woman cantor in history. Today, the SSM advances the evolving and growing role of cantors in congregational life.  As schlichai tzibbur – leaders of prayer and composers of liturgical poetry and song – these men and women express the spirituality of their congregations; as clergy, they provide pastoral care; and as Jewish educators, they engage the multigenerational community and strengthen Jewish learning and continuity.

A rigorous five-year program leading to the degree of Master of Sacred Music includes a first year of study at HUC-JIR’s Jerusalem School, followed by four years at the New York campus featuring intensive Judaic, Hebrew, music, musicology, and liturgy studies, vocal and professional development, internships, pastoral care and counseling field work, and performance. Upon investiture as cantors, alumni are eligible for membership in the American Conference of Cantors, an affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism.

The SSM continues to publish Jewish musical liturgical classics, and conserves and makes available the rare music holdings of the Klau Library, one of the largest and most comprehensive Jewish libraries in the world housing the largest collection of printed Judaica in America. Among the treasures of the Klau Library is The Eduard Birnbaum Collection acquired by HUC-JIR in 1918. The Birnbaum Collection contains the world’s only copies of Jewish musical scores written before 1840 and includes Birnbaum’s catalog listing all melodies and synagogal songs printed or written in Europe between 1700 and 1910. 

In 2007 HUC-JIR took a transformative step –  Debbie Friedman became a member of the faculty, enabling the SSM to broaden its vision and expand its curriculum to include varied musical genres from classical hazzanut to the contemporary folk idiom, making it more relevant to the diverse needs of today’s congregations.


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's first institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu