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December 22, 2011
Next Issue: January 19, 2012
May the lights of the Hanukkah candles brighten your home throughout 2012.
A Special Issue of HUC-JIR News: Spotlight on the Dedication of the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music
The dedication of the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music (DFSSM) took place on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at the New York campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion with a special service, tribute, and performance by cantorial alumni and students of the DFSSM.
David Vaisberg, R ’12 and Julia Katz, DFSSM ’12, served as Shlichei Tzibbur and led the community in prayer and worship during the Shacharit service. The dedication ceremony began with a welcome from Rabbi Shirley Idelson, Dean, HUC-JIR/New York. Cantor Bruce Ruben, Director of the DFSSM, sang Debbie Friedman’s Mi Sheberach (arr. Elliot Levine), with the DFSSM choir. Jerry Kaye, Director of Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute in Oconomowoc, WI, shared stories about his personal relationship with Debbie. Rabbi David Ellenson, President, spoke about how Debbie influenced and inspired HUC-JIR and the Reform Movement at large. Rabbi Ellenson invited Debbie’s mother Freda, sister Cheryl, and aunt Ann to join him on stage as he unveiled the plaque formally naming the school the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music. Following the dedication, services concluded with the singing of Debbie’s Mourning into Dancing, led by Merri Arian.
Rabbi David Ellenson, HUC-JIR President, stated, “A beloved member of our faculty since 2007, Debbie Friedman, z”l, inspired our students through her creativity and musical talents, helped guide their spiritual and leadership development, and provided them with innovative strategies to transform congregations into communities of learning and meaning. Our students were blessed by her devotion, and our faculty was enriched by her gifts and talents. Her words and her music will live on and shape the world of prayer in our synagogues and in the larger Jewish community throughout the world for this and future generations.”
The DFSSM at HUC-JIR honors our beloved teacher, of blessed memory, and her singular contributions to religious worship, spiritual renewal, and the Jewish people. As the only Reform Jewish cantorial school in North America and the nation’s oldest institution educating cantors, the DFSSM is dedicated to preparing cantors for the Reform Movement and preserving, enhancing, and creating Jewish music. Since its founding in 1948, at a time when the Holocaust had nearly severed the continuity of the Jewish people’s cultural heritage, the DFSSM has prepared 469 cantors to serve communities throughout North America, Israel, and around the world. Among these alumni are 204 women cantors who have graduated from the cantorial program since 1975, when HUC-JIR invested the first woman cantor in history. The rigorous five-year cantorial program, leading to the degree of Master of Sacred Music and investiture as Cantor, includes a first year of study at HUC-JIR’s Jerusalem campus, followed by four years in New York. The curriculum encompasses intensive Judaic, Hebrew, music, musicology, and liturgy studies, vocal and professional development, internships, pastoral care and counseling field work, and performance. The pluralistic faculty, representing many different streams of Judaism, offers an integrated approach to liturgical music ranging from the traditional to the contemporary.
Debbie Friedman, z”l, had a unique ability to touch the lives of the people with whom she came into contact, and inspired an even larger community of people throughout the globe who were moved by her music. A world-renowned folk songwriter and performer, she joined HUC-JIR in July 2007 as Instructor in Music at the School of Sacred Music. She inspired HUC-JIR’s students through her creativity and musical talents, helped guide their spiritual and leadership development, and provided them with innovative strategies to transform congregations into communities of learning and meaning. Her teaching at HUCJIR included “Music as Midrash,” a course for rabbinical, cantorial, and education students exploring the spiritual core of Jewish texts as a source for songs, sermons, and study. As an artist-in-residence, she coached cantorial students, participated in services, and contributed to the development of the curriculum. Her nineteen album recordings include many songs that have become so much a part of many synagogues’ liturgy as to be considered “traditional.” The College-Institute honored her significant contributions to Jewish liturgy, spirituality, and worship in a tribute concert on November 12, 2009 at Central Synagogue in New York City.