Copyright ©2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


Members of Congregation Chaverim in Tucson, Arizona, held a healing service for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on Sunday morning. It's the congregation she belongs to.

And when they sang the traditional Jewish prayer for healing, the "Mi Sheberach," Hebrew for The One who Blesses, like so many Reform congregations, they sang this version, this melody.

It's by Debbie Friedman who died yesterday at age 59. This is a recording of Debbie Friedman, whose melodies have re-shaped the sound of Jewish worship in Reform, Conservative and Re-constructionist synagogues.

(Soundbite of song, "Mi Sheberach")

Ms. DEBBIE FRIEDMAN (Singer): (Singing foreign language). May the source of strength who bless the ones before us help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing, and let us say amen.

SIEGEL: I interviewed Debbie Friedman on this program back in 1997, a few days before one of her Carnegie Hall concerts. I asked her about this prayer for healing that would have sounded so out of place in a Reform temple, say, 50 years ago.

Ms. FRIEDMAN: Early on in Reform, there was a leaning toward more intellectuality and less emotional, less spiritual, that anything that was a-rational really didn't have a place.

And I think that the greatest breakthrough that has happened in these past maybe 20, 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.

SIEGEL: And for a generation of American Jews, the music that evoked feeling was often the music of Debbie Friedman. She died in Orange County, California, of complications from pneumonia.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the 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.