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Remembering Debbie Friedman

Remembering Debbie Friedman

Judith Hauptman is the E. Billi Ivry Professor of Talmud and Rabbinic Culture (Emerita) at Jewish Theological Seminary and rabbi and founder of Ohel Ayalah, which offers free, walk-in High Holiday services to young Jews. One of her grandchildren is growing up in an interfaith home.

It seems to me that one aspect of Debbie Friedman’s significant contributions to American Jewish life has not been mentioned. She interwove Hebrew phrases, from the Bible and other traditional Jewish texts, with the English words of her songs — the “Mi Shebeirach” and “Lekhi Lach” being just two examples.

As a result, many Jews who grew up knowing no Hebrew, no Bible and no liturgy were given basic Jewish knowledge in Hebrew, the language of the Jewish people. I once asked her if that is what she consciously set out to do and she answered “yes,” without a moment’s hesitation.
E. Billi Ivry Professor of Talmud,
Jewish Theological Seminary

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