HUC-JIR Mourns the Death of Debbie Friedman, z"l - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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HUC-JIR Mourns the Death of Debbie Friedman, z"l

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Monday, January 10, 2011
"It is with deep sadness that we inform you of the untimely death of Debbie Friedman early this past Sunday morning.  All of us at the College-Institute join Debbie's family in mourning the loss of a beloved teacher and friend," said Rabbi David Ellenson, HUC-JIR President.  "Debbie Friedman was sui generis.  She 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 and inspired by her music.  The students of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion were blessed by her devotion, and the faculty was enriched by her gifts and talents. Her words and her music will live on and shape the world of prayer in our synagogues and in the larger Jewish community for this and future generations.  May her memory be a blessing."
Debbie Friedman, world-renowned folk songwriter and performer, served as Instructor in Music at the School of Sacred Music of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, since July 1, 2007.  Upon her move back to California this past summer in order to live closer to her mother and sister, she taught at HUC-JIR's Los Angeles campus during the Fall semester.  She was about to return to New York briefly to teach "Music as Midrash" as an intersession course, beginning Monday, January 10. The College-Institute honored Debbie Friedman's enormous contributions to Jewish liturgy, spirituality, and worship in a tribute concert on November 12, 2009 at Central Synagogue.  

"Debbie Friedman inspired our 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," said Rabbi David Ellenson, President, HUC-JIR. Her teaching at HUC-JIR included "Music as Midrash," a course for rabbinical, cantorial, and education students exploring the spiritual core of Jewish texts as a source for songs, sermons, and studyAs an artist-in-residence, coached cantorial students and participate in services and other areas of the School of Sacred Music curriculum.

"It was kol isha (the voice of women) for col isha (every woman) that inspired me to write inclusive music," said Debbie Friedman.  "It is beneficial not only for women, but for men and children as well.  Singing helps us learn how to be vocal. The more our voices are heard in song, the more we become our lyrics, our prayers, and our convictions."

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 recorded 19 albums, including many songs which have become so much a part of many synagogue's liturgy as to be considered "traditional."

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates leaders to serve 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, museums, 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.