A 300-person nostalgic sing-along rocked the Julia Bindeman Suburban Center of Washington Hebrew Congregation Sunday night as six area Jewish song leaders performed the music of Debbie Friedman, a Jewish songwriter whose music often is heard at synagogues and camps.
The memorial concert, held five years after Friedman’s death in 2011, was led by Lisa Baydush, Audrey Katz, Sally Heckelman, Liz Kruger, Jill Moskowitz and Teddy Klaus. As the women strummed their guitars and Klaus played the keyboard, the words to Friedman’s music were displayed on a large screen above them in the Potomac building so that audience members could participate.
“This evening, we gather to honor and to remember” Friedman, who “transformed the life of Jewish music,” Moskowitz told the crowd. She referred to Friedman, who she said produced 20 albums during a 40-year span, as “truly a modern day prophet, our Miriam.”
Friedman’s music intersperses Hebrew and English and is derived from Jewish texts. She is the widely known composer of “Mi Shebeirach,” “Sing Unto God,” “Miriam’s Song” and “The Latke Song.” Her “Alef Bet” song taught the Hebrew alphabet to children around the country following its performances by Barney, television’s purple dinosaur.
“She wrote multiple versions of many of our prayers,” Kruger said of Friedman, who began her prolific career as a song leader in the early 1970s for the National Federation of Temple Youth.
Toward the end of the 90-minute concert, the musicians performed three songs that Friedman had written but not recorded before her death, including a new melody for “L’cha Dodi” and the songs, “Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof” and “Shalom Aleichem.”
Urged Katz, “We must keep the music alive for generations to come.”