NPR did a nice piece about the death this weekend of Debbie Friedman, a musician whose music impacted thousands and thousands of Jews around the world, and how her most famous piece, Mi Sheberach, was sung at the healing service for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, held at Giffords’s synagogue, Congregation Chaverim in Tuscon.
I’ve heard a lot of people mention Mi Sheberach in the wake of Debbie’s illness and subsequent death, but I think the song of hers that has become most ubiquitous is actually her havdalah. (This video isn’t Debbie singing, but it’s someone else singing the melody she wrote.)
I have to be honest here in saying that Debbie Friedman’s music is not my favorite. I’ve always respected her work and the passion others feel for it, but to me her music felt too sing alongy, which isn’t what I want at shul.
That said, I’ve been really impressed at the way her music blanketed the Jewish world, from the Reform world that she came from, to the Orthodox world. I will never forget the first time I heard an Orthodox synagogue leading havdalah using Debbie Friedman’s melody. To me, what was so amazing about her work was its ability to transcend borders you wouldn’t have thought were at all porous. The loss of Debbie Friedman is really a loss of a bridge that connected communities that didn’t always want to be connected.