Rabbi Sharon L. Sobel, Holy Blossom Temple/Temple Kol Ami, Thornhill, Ontario, Canada
My father, Rabbi Richard J. Sobel, z"l, was an early fan of Debbie's from the time she was a young song-leader as a teen-ager.
They developed a fast friendship and kept in touch as she progressed on her journey. He was the one who introduced me to Debbie's music when I was a child. I remember how proud he was when her first album came out (and I have distinct memories of one of her early albums - it had a black and white cover, with a silouette of her with long hair. My father so loved learning her music and teaching it to our congregation!
My father re-connected with Debbie many years later, just a few years ago, when she gave a small concert in Vermont. He was so thrilled to be there, listening to her beautiful voice, being moved by her music, but most of all: to meet with her afterwards and to catch up. The friendship from so long ago was not forgotten, but renewed and gave my father naches and joy. Sadly, my father died suddenly a year ago. But among the many gifts that he gave me, was his love of music. And when I think of Debbie Friedman - I think of my father.
Like many of us, Debbie has been part of my Jewish life through-out my life, inspiring me, nurturing me, moving me. Debbie was not only connected to my father, but to my mother as well. 10 weeks after my father died, my mother suddenly became critically ill (she died 5 days before her 70th birthday). It was Debbie's havdalah niggun that we sang to my mother as she lay in her hospital bed (my mother's favorite ritual was Havdalah) and my mother gently "slipped away" and died as we sang Debbie's niggun. The Hazzan began my mother's funeral with that same niggun.
So Debbie's music has been woven into the fabric of our lives, from the time we were young, throughout the years, and will continue to do so. Truly, with her life, her music, her gift, she gave others joy, meaning, hope and life. She will be sadly missed by all. I know that she will continue to give us that hope, that joy, that comfort with the great legacy of music that she bequeaths to us.
We were blessed by her presence, her gift, her music, her life. May she now be remembered for a blessing. Zichrona livracha. Rabbi Sharon L. Sobel