Bet Shalom Hosting Sing-A-Long Of Debbie Friedman’s Music

Debbie Friedman’s death 12 years on Jan. 9 shocked many, and in the years since, Cantor Tamar Havilio had organized a kumsitz – a musical gathering – of Friedman’s music when she used to teach at the Hebrew Union College campus in Jerusalem. 

Now the cantor at Bet Shalom, Havilio, and the Minnesota Cantors Association are bringing the kumsitz to Minnetonka. The event is Saturday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m., with a suggested donation of $18 taken at the door and going to camp scholarships. Scheduled to participate are: Cantor Emeritus Barry Abelson, Temple Israel; Hazzan Joanna Dulkin, Adath Jeshurun Congregation;  Cantor Joshua Fineblum, Temple of Aaron; Cantor Wendi Fried, Beth El Synagogue; Cantor Inbal Sharett-Singer, Temple Israel; Cantor Rachel Stock Spilker, Mount Zion Temple; Cantor Jennifer Strauss-Klein, Mount Zion Temple; and Cantor Ben Tisser, Beth El Synagogue.

“Every year, I did a Debbie Friedman kumsitz with the students in her memory,” Havilio said. Over time, she would add other artists who were contemporaries of Friedman or who were influenced by her. “People love singing Debbie’s music. We would have a packed house at HUC Jerusalem.”

Friedman was born in Utica, N.Y., but grew up in St. Paul and spent many years as a counselor and song leader at OSRUI, the Union of Reform Judaism camp in Oconomowoc, Wis. Many of her songs have become fixtures in Conservative and Reform Judaism.

“She wrote the Mi Shebeirach because, in the 1980s, she had many friends dying of AIDS in her community,” Havilio said. “She wanted to help her friends and give them some words to use for healing that people could relate to. That prayer, I used to say, was the prayer that brought back the healing power to Reform Judaism.” 

The event is going to be a singalong, and people should come casual –  jeans and any camp t-shirt, Havilio said. S’mores and hot chocolate will be served. 

“There will be a few moments of solo singing, but we want to get people to sing her music,” Havilio said. “It’s an incredible feeling of bringing back that moment of first singing Debbie’s music. Was it camp? Synagogue? Hebrew school? Her music helped create the American Jewish community.”

RSVP for the event is online.