Debbie Friedman, Who Rewrote Jewish Prayers For A New Generation, Has Died

Debbie Friedman performs at Limmud Conference at the University of Warwick on December 26, 2010. i i

Debbie Friedman performs at Limmud Conference at the University of Warwick on December 26, 2010. Limmud/flickr hide caption

itoggle caption Limmud/flickr
Debbie Friedman performs at Limmud Conference at the University of Warwick on December 26, 2010.

Debbie Friedman performs at Limmud Conference at the University of Warwick on December 26, 2010.

Limmud/flickr

Debbie Friedman, a Jewish folk singer, died on Sunday in Mission Viejo, California at the age of 59. The cause was complications of pneumonia, according to Jerry Kaye, a family spokesman. Friedman's versions of traditional Jewish prayers, set to contemporary melodies with lyrics in both Hebrew and English, became standards in Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist synagogues around the world.

It was Friedman's reworking of "Mi Sheberach," a prayer for healing and perhaps her most famous song, that was sung by Congregation Chaverim in Tucson at a prayer service for Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on Sunday. In 1997, Friedman spoke with All Things Considered's Robert Siegel about how songs like that one became such fixtures in Reform synagogues:

"Early on in Reform there was a leaning toward more intellectuality and less emotional, less spiritual; that anything that was arational really didn't have a place. And I think that the greatest breakthrough that has happened in these past maybe 20 — maybe 25 — years is that those walls are crumbling, that people have found now that we need to be integrated human beings that both know and think and also feel."

YouTube

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.