Debbie Friedman was my first introduction to the spiritual world of American Jewry. As a Brit I had been vaccinated against what we would knowingly call “happy-clappy” Judaism. We would look on the (mostly Reform) world of American Jewry and recognize only echoes of gospel and Woodstock, but nothing authentic. Or at least nothing authentic to our British experience of being Jewish in the world.
And then came Debbie. At my first Limmud conference in Oxford 1994. An intimate gathering of about 200 people at a strange conference that didn’t know what it was or would become. And an American song-leader who created an astonishing ad hoc choir of Brits who sang to the heavens with a freedom and joy that I’d never heard in the U.K. The U.K. being a haven of mostly Orthoprax Judaism, the whole women thing hadn’t yet taken hold of the imagination, and the God thing even less.
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