Debbie Friedman’s music lives on

Tamar Willis, Staff Writer

Though her name might not be familiar, her tunes and songs are. Debbie Friedman, the renowned Jewish American composer, singer and recording artist, passed away Jan. 9, and students began learning who she was.

Best known for setting Jewish prayers and teachings to contemporary folk-style music accompanied by guitar, Ms. Friedman’s music is loved by many. Conservative, Reform and some Orthodox congregations use her settings as liturgical music.

“I’ve sung along to tunes she’d written almost all my life in school and at synagogue, but I did not know she wrote them,” said freshman Liat Bainvoll.    Some of her most famous songs include “The Aleph Bet Song” (“Aleph, bet, vet, gimmel dalet hey…”) and the Hanukkah song “Not By Might.”  She also wrote the well known tunes for “Mi Sheberach” and “Oseh Shalom.”  Ms. Friedman composed both upbeat songs, such as

‘Miriam’s Song,” about women dancing on the shores of the Red Sea, as well as songs with slower melodies, like her famous “Lechi Lach.”

News reports said Ms. Friedman had been struggling with various health issues since the 1990’s, and in early January was admitted to a hospital in Orange County, where she lived, for treatment of pneumonia.  It was there that she passed away.

Her funeral, which was open to the public, was held two days later at Temple Beth Shalom in Santa Ana.

Shalhevet’s Director of Development, Stuart Rogoff, knew Debbie personally after working with her and organizing some concerts in the 1980s.

“She was an extremely passionate person,” Mr. Rogoff said. “She was extremely talented and very dedicated, and though she faced a lot of health challenges, she kept performing, and writing new music. She just cared about ruach (spirit), genuine ruach. She was a one-of-a-kind.”