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November 23, 2014 | 1st Kislev 5775

Monica Corton, Central Synagogue, NY, NY

Last year, Debbie taught a series of classes on Hanukah at my synagogue, Central Synagogue in NYC.

Last year, Debbie taught a series of classes on Hanukah at my synagogue, Central Synagogue in NYC. The classes were team taught with Joe Septimus and were just amazing. At the end of the first class, Debbie challenged us to write a story about dedication and be mindful of the parts of the story that are true and the parts that we use to elaborate on the truth (like the oil lasting eight nights saga).

My father had recently passed away and I was searching for a creative way to keep his memory alive for my young niece and nephew. I decided to write my story of dedication on our family dedicating ourselves to the ideals that my Dad taught us all through the story of my niece's first Hanukah. At the second class, I gave Debbie a copy of the text of the story and she loved it. In the next few months, I made the story into a picture book with pictures of our family celebrating Hanukah.

I was so looking forward to sharing the book with Debbie this March 2011 when she was scheduled to teach a series of Passover classes at Central Synagogue. Sadly....I will never get to do that nor will I ever share another inspiring session of learning with Debbie. There is absolutely no other Jewish teacher I have studied with who exuded such warmth and spirituality. First Debbie did that through her music, but over the years, she also honed that skill in her everyday discussions with thousands of Jewish people around the world.

It took the leadership of the Reform movement years to finally admit how gifted Debbie was and how she could totally reshape the way spirituality is taught to clergy in this country. They waited and waited to implement her special teaching skills and to engage her fully with HUC students. What is most sad to me is how many future clergy students will not get to be a part of Debbie's special spark, but we will all always have her music which is like no other and which moves people in ways they have never dreamed. She will be missed by so many, especially me. May she rest in peace.

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