A Place to Belong: Deb­bie Fried­man Sings Her Way Home

  • Review
By – March 7, 2023

Any child who has felt like they don’t fit in will relate to Deb­o­rah Lakritz’s new pic­ture book, A Place to Belong: Deb­bie Fried­man Sings Her Way Home. Com­plete with joy­ous, expres­sive illus­tra­tions, this biog­ra­phy shares the sto­ry of well-known singer-song­writer Deb­bie Fried­man. When Deb­bie was a lit­tle girl, she lived hap­pi­ly with her fam­i­ly in Uti­ca, New York, and spent Shab­bat and oth­er Jew­ish hol­i­days with her grand­par­ents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. But when her fam­i­ly moved to far-off Min­neso­ta, Deb­bie felt sad, lone­ly, and out of place. Then Debbie’s mom signed her up for Hebrew school, and Deb­bie found con­nec­tion and mean­ing in the prayers, the music, and the com­mu­ni­ty of Junior Con­gre­ga­tion. Yet as she got old­er, and was required to attend adult ser­vices, her joy dis­si­pat­ed. She felt sti­fled by the solem­ni­ty and seri­ous­ness of the syn­a­gogue world.

Every­thing changed again for Deb­bie when she found work at a Jew­ish sleep­away camp. Around the camp­fire, she heard folk songs that sound­ed like prayers. She jug­gled a num­ber of jobs so that she could pur­chase a gui­tar and even­tu­al­ly became a song leader, singing and play­ing for syn­a­gogues and youth groups. Soon she wrote a melody for the lyrics of the V’ahavta. When she shared her song at a youth retreat, the teens sang with their arms around each oth­er, the spir­it of the song embrac­ing them.

Deb­bie turned her tal­ent to writ­ing songs that con­nect all types of peo­ple to Judaism. Through her pro­lif­ic, melod­ic, and spir­i­tu­al music, gen­er­a­tions both young and old find a place to belong.

Paula Chaiken has worked in a vari­ety of capac­i­ties in the Jew­ish world — teach­ing in reli­gious school, curat­ing at the Sper­tus Muse­um and fundrais­ing for the Fed­er­a­tion — for more than twen­ty years. She also runs a bou­tique pub­lic rela­tions con­sult­ing firm and enjoys read­ing all sorts of books with her three sons.

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