Meryl Shader, Congregation Beth Shalom, Congregation B'nai Israel, Sacramento, CA
Debbie Friedman's music is the sound of my youth. I can not hear her songs and not feel myself to be a teenager at Jewish summer camp. Her death feels like a personal loss although I never met her.
I can remember being very proud to master the Kaddish by way of her
version of this prayer. It felt controversial to sing it, and I can
remember learning it as part of a reinterpretation of Kaddish as a
prayer of life. I sang Debbie Friedman's kaddish for my grandfather,
Myer Shader, a retired canter, and will always remember his bemused
laugh at her va-va-va-voom melody. It was impressive to me that he
could smile and support this music; I think he was amazingly progressive
and far-sighted to be able to enjoy the sounds that were bringing
Judaism to my generation. I am now old enough to recognize that Debbie
Friedman's passion to write songs was brilliant, unlikely, and very,
very fortunate for those of us who were Jewish campers in the 1970s. I
will be Singing Unto God and singing Debbie Friedman with gratitude, and
with sadness at her passing.