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September 23, 2014 | 28th Elul 5774

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.

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