Cantor Rosalie Will Boxt, Temple Emanuel, Kensington, MD
Debbie gave voice to many texts and experiences that before her were often either difficult to find, or were left to the purview of cantors or music professionals. And she gave voice, the permission to express ourselves fully, to so many in the Jewish community.
Her music in many ways has become the tapestry of our people, and tells the story of a generation of Jews through the joy of the state of Israel; of Torah texts that teach values of justice and honor, and tailor that share express our longing for God. Her melodies bring texts to life about women, about hope, about joy and about healing in ways few had done before her. Her melodies taught me countless Jewish texts as a girl; Pirkei Avot, Psalms, prophet, Torah -- and growing up I learned the words and values of our sacred texts through her stories and songs.
What's remarkable are not just the melodies themselves, but her spirit and the love Debbie shared not only in the melodies she wrote, but in her love of teaching and her honest sharing of music wherever she went. The reason so many around the world feel close to Debbie, and call her "friend" is because she, in leading worship or in performance, gave us permission to feel deeply. She gave fully of herself and opened a door for so many to share their deepest hurts or their purest joy. She asked people to be open to their truest hearts, to their longing for the Divine, and for the need we have for love and friendship and for each other. There was no pretense with Debbie, and her music and spirit have created a growth of expression in Jewish music, liturgical and none, that speaks to a Jewish community that wants to be fully engaged in prayer, in song, and in learning.
Debbie taught me not only through her music, but through her great friendship and love, that it is ok to hurt and it is ok to love. She helped me grow as a cantor and a woman, and taught to me allow my community to give back to me as much as I may give to it. She continues to inspire me and so many others with her music, her strength, her commitment to Torah and nusach, and to the Jewish people of all backgrounds and experiences.