Sisterhood Blog

Debbie Friedman's Enduring Gift

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

  • Print
  • Share Share
debbiefriedman.com

Soon after Debbie Friedman died about a year ago — her first yartzheit is later this month — I heard about the version of “Shalom Aleichem she penned and shared, but never had a chance to record.

Now, I love the “original” tune with which many of us are familiar. I used to sing it to my youngest child to soothe her when she was an infant and toddler, holding her and stroking her back as I rocked in my mother’s rocking chair. She loved it and would request it by name, as soon as she was old enough to say the words.

Nonetheless, Debbie’s “Shalom Aleichem” has come to be our family’s new tune.

My son, who had a special relationship with Debbie, returned from her memorial service about a month after she died (I was just starting to pierce the fog of grief at that point, and couldn’t bear to go) with it to share with our family. Over the next few weeks, he taught it to us as we sat down to Shabbat dinner.

We have sung it ever since, and we share it with everyone we can.

Boychik taught it to other members of HaZamir, the Jewish high school choir at their annual retreat last year, and they went on to sing it at Lincoln Center. More recently, he shared it at the collegiate gathering of the Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel alumni.

I really enjoy sharing it with everyone who joins us for Shabbat dinner, and hope they will take it back to their own tables and friends.

In the course of reporting this story about the way people are sharing the song, I spoke with several people with whom the legendary musician had been close. We exchanged stories about Debbie and the role she played in our lives. I realized that sharing stories about Debbie is one way that she still connects us to each other. So is singing her “Shalom Aleichem.”

In life, Debbie’s gift was connecting us, through her music, to God and each other — at her concerts, feminist seders and at her healing services. Through her “Shalom Aleichem,” she’s still sharing it.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Shalom Aleichem, Debbie Friedman

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.