Deb­bie’s Song

  • Review
By – April 4, 2023

Deb­bie Fried­man’s music is loved by Jew­ish chil­dren and adults around the world. This pic­ture biog­ra­phy, then, will charm teach­ers, care­givers, and all who lis­ten to Jew­ish music and con­sid­er it an inte­gral part of their lives.

Lev­en­thal fol­lows Deb­bie from her days as a music-lov­ing child who sang, danced, and moved to rhythms, through her sea­sons as a song leader at Jew­ish sum­mer camp and her hap­py days as a kib­butz vol­un­teer. She felt music brought joy to the world; why, she won­dered, did peo­ple in syn­a­gogues fid­get and squirm their way through long, dry ser­vices? She believed that adding the right music would bring delight to the syn­a­gogue expe­ri­ence. Maybe through the use of melody, she could cre­ate a more vibrant and live­ly com­mu­ni­ty. She had nev­er writ­ten lyrics but knew that the prayer book was filled with beau­ti­ful Hebrew words and phras­es that would be mean­ing­ful set to music. She com­bined them with the more famil­iar Eng­lish, form­ing lyrics that con­gre­gants could respond to and love.

Although many admired her music and felt it enriched their lives, oth­ers accused her of dis­hon­or­ing tra­di­tion. Nev­er­the­less, Deb­bie per­se­vered, and slow­ly her beau­ti­ful com­po­si­tions began to take hold in the Jew­ish world. She even per­formed at New York’s famed Carnegie Hall. Her dream of build­ing com­mu­ni­ty through music was a resound­ing success.

Grebtso­va’s pic­tures sing, too. Line and col­or evoke move­ment and rhythm; facial expres­sions depict the joys of song and dance. In a final author’s note, Lev­en­thal says she hopes that Deb­bie will inspire chil­dren to stand up for their beliefs and pur­sue their dreams.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

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