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Schindler Distinguished Service Award

Contact: Donald Cohen-Cutler

Debbie Friedman Honored for Deepening Jewish Spirituality through Music
Schindler Distinguished Service Award Given to those who Strengthen the Jewish People

November 8, 2007—For more than a generation, Debbie Friedman’s music has paved the way for millions to find a spiritual home in Judaism. In honor of her dedication to the Jewish people and creating new ways to reach them through song, the Union for Reform Judaism has given the 2007 Schindler Distinguished Service Award to Debbie Friedman.

Named for the second president of the Union, the Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has demonstrated a deep commitment to the welfare of world Jewry. “A gifted singer, songwriter and musician, Debbie Friedman’s lyrics and melodies speak to us and enable us to speak to God,” said Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union. “During the last 35 years, her music has become a fixture in our synagogues, our camps and, in fact, wherever we gather to worship and celebrate. Her work, most notably in the area of spirituality and Outreach, continues to reshape the face of contemporary Judaism.”

From the first song Debbie ever wrote to the V’Ahavta, And Thou Shall Love (1971), Debbie has taken the prayers and teachings of the Torah and created a catalogue of modern day songs that translate the messages into a format that people without education steeped in Judaism can understand, relate to, and come to love. She has produced 21 albums and has performed at camps, in synagogues, community centers and major performing arts centers, large and small. In celebration of her 25th anniversary in 1996, she performed at Carnegie Hall where she sold out three years consecutively. A strong feminist and a firm believer in the faith of healing, Friedman introduced lyrics and melodies for healing and empowerment that are now used throughout the Reform Movement. Her Mishebeirach now appears in Mishkan T’filah as a normative part of Reform Jewish worship in the 21st century.

During Rabbi Schindler's 23-year tenure as president, the Union experienced exceptional growth and significant developments in organizational policy. The visionary father of the Union’s acclaimed Torah Commentary, Rabbi Schindler recognized and worked toward meeting the Movement’s need for enriched religious school studies as well as stimulating and meaningful adult Jewish education and to become “Champions of Judaism.”

Rabbi Schindler urged the Movement to welcome those who chose Judaism as their spiritual home and those who married into our faith and became involved in Jewish homes. Just as tenaciously, he promoted patrilineality, acceptance of Jewishly educated children of Jewish fathers as Jews and urged Reform Judaism to fortify the inner life of every Jew. Rabbi Schindler repeatedly called upon Reform Jews to take pride in their faith and make Judaism a meaningful enterprise in their lives.

This award will be presented to Debbie Friedman by Rabbi Lenard Thal, senior vice-president of the Union, this December in San Diego during the 69th Biennial Convention of the Union for Reform Judaism, the five-day gathering bringing thousands of Reform Jews from across North America together to engage in innovative worship experiences, debates regarding the future of the Reform Movement and educational opportunities taught by leading Jewish thinkers.

The Union for Reform Judaism (formerly the Union of American Hebrew Congregations) is the central body of Reform Judaism in North America, uniting 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 synagogues. Union services include camps, music and book publishing, outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, educational programs, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C.


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