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October 10, 2015 | 27th Tishrei 5776

Rabbi Phil Bentley, Hendersonville, NC

Phyllis and I first met Debbie before she was Debbie Friedman.

In 1970 just back from Israel she was a song leader at Kutz. We became friends and made music together. I actually engineered (i.e., ran the tape recorder) for what may have been the first Debbie Friedman recording with the Haggigah choir. Even then we knew she was an extraordinary person.

Years later, at a CCAR convention, she encouraged me to sing during an after-hours song session in a way that gave me courage to make full use of my voice. She actually made me hear myself in a new way.

My family still remembers the night she sang at the Westbury Music Fair. At one point she invited members of the audience to join her on stage. Few concert artists have the generosity or courage to do this (another friend who left this world too soon, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, used to do this). I went up among many others and when she saw me gave a shout out to me which is surely not the only reason my family remembers that night.
Debbie's songs have been a part of my repertoire for decades. Whether it is Debbie singing or anyone else giving voice to her songs they never fail to inspire. I feel blessed to have been her friend.

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