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.