Whether you attended a Jewish day-school, Hebrew school, or went to a camp that had any inkling of Judaism to it, you knew Debbie Friedman. I’m not the most avid fan of folk music, and I quite dislike all Jewish music (excluding, of course, my very own high school band – The Matzah Balls – who played heavy metal versions of Jewish songs). But while I wasn’t necessarily into the music itself, the songs bring back memories for me. Memories of ridiculous summers at terrible JCC camps. Memories of getting kicked out of music class every single time in the 3rd grade. And when it comes to Jewish music, especially Jewish folk music, memories seem to be the point.
Jewish music isn’t written for the ultra-Orthodox or the extremely-religious. It’s written for those who have a tenuous connection to their religion. It’s written to remind people of some of the beauty that a religion has to offer. It’s written, in short, so that one day we will have these nostalgic feelings about some religious experience somewhere along the way, and there will be some pang of connection, a tiny memory of being part of something greater.
With the loss of Debbie Friedman, we’ve lost one of the great creators of Jewish folk music, and one of the great connectors of Jews everywhere.