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January 26, 1996 - Image 34

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-01-26

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Debbie Friedman-
Queen Of Souls

stores and temple gift shops where Ms.
Friedman's music traditionally has been
sold, her publisher has turned to the In-
ternet. Tara Publications of Owings Mills,
Md., the primary distributor of Ms. Fried-
man's recordings and musical catalog, has
established a Debbie Friedman home page
on the World Wide Web, as part of its for-
profit Internet site (http://www.jewish
music.com) that markets Jewish record-
ings and sheet music.
Her latest recording on the Sounds
Write label, a polished collection of new
and established tunes titled Renewal of
Spirit, is expected to sell more than 50,000
CDs and cassettes, according to Tara Pub-
"We don't have to push anymore," says
Velvel Pasternak, owner of Tara. 'We put
out, and people buy.
Ms. Friedman
When she comes out with
and her faithful
Farfel work and
something new, it's may-
play in a spacious
Observers speculate
on New York's
Renewal of Spirit may
West Side.
find its way into New Age
and feminist book and
record outlets, for its gender-neutral ref-
erences to God, inclusive lyrics and ethe-
real Windham Hill-style production.
Included is a lushly reconfigured rendition
of "Mi Shebeirach," the unofficial anthem
of the burgeoning Jewish healing move-
ment. Another cut, a lullaby titled "The
Angel's Blessing," assures ever-growing
angel believers that shechinah (the pres-
ence of God in the world) surrounds us be-
fore we sleep.
"Many of her fans believe her songs are
going to be the Oyfin Prepitchuks of the
21st century, putting children to sleep in
the dark," wrote New York Jewish Week
columnist Jonathan Mark.
In reply, Ms. Friedman says, "Nothing
could give me greater pleasure than know-
ing some of my songs could put a child to







Beth Carnegie
It's curtains up at Carnegie Hall, as the
worst blizzard of the decade builds power,
and some 1,700 stalwarts brave the snow
to arrive at the famed concert hall. The au-
dience greets Ms. Friedman with a stand-
ing ovation. It's a mixed throng of adult
and young, women and men, some wear-
ing kippot or coverings for their hair.
"Please sing with us —just stay on key.
We have to be on our best behavior," Ms.
Friedman says, acknowledging the mu-
sically holy surroundings.
Somewhere out there are unidentified
patrons who paid less than the full price
of admission. It's not just another concert;
the atmosphere is one of a kumsitz, a ser-
She sings the "Mi Shebeirach" and is
swept away with the communal response.
"I don't experience the people going to my
concerts as an audience," she says. "I don't
separate myself; I'm one of them.
"When they hear "Mi Shebeirach," it can

"If there is any message you get

me when I stand on a stage, it's that peo-
ple have tremendous power to transform
this world."
from me when I stand on a stage,
This day, dressed in a white pantsuit,
she is accompanied by a seven-piece en-
it's that people have tremendous
semble, dressed in black. Ellen Dreskin
sings backup vocals. E. J. Cohen signs for
power to transform this world."
the deaf. Lyrics penned decades ago have
been rewritten for this performance to omit
references to God as "King" or "Lord." The
— Debbie Friedman
song leader and her audience are blessed-
be cathartic. I think most people don't ly pleased.
"About the joke about how you get to
know how tender they are. It's probably
because we feel a need to hide from our Carnegie Hall," she says to the audience.
vulnerability. If people were not so afraid, "At the risk of sounding sappy, I think you
the world would be different — if people need to know it's because of you. I look out
knew the power of their words, the pow- here and it's like having a bar mitzvah."
er of their touch, the power of their prayer. Her family and friends choke back tears.
After more than a quarter-century of
- "I don't think people have an inkling
about how much they have to offer. What toil, this is a watershed moment for Ms.
prayer can do is to help us to see our gift. Friedman. Applause cascades in soothing
And if there is any message you get from streams. Her critics are elsewhere this

Sunday; all she sees are Jews who are un-
deniably moved by her music, which only
stands to improve in a city where the best-
of-the-best perform.
It is where Peter Yarrow and Judy
Collins live. And, now, Eva and Bill Cher-
noffs granddaughter, too.
"This is an exciting moment of recog-
nition," she says to the adoring crowd.
"Thank you for creating "Beth Carnegie."
Whoever thought?" 0

e Debbie Friedman will appear in con-
cert on Sunday, March 10, 2 p.m. at
Temple Emanu-El. Sponsors include
Jewish Experiences For Families, The
Jewish News and other communal or-
Tickets are: adults $5; children $3.
For information, call the Greater De-,
troit Chapter of Hadassah, (810) 683-
5030; or the JPIVI JCC, (810) 9674030.

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