Monthly Archives: January 2012

Debbie Friedman z’l Tribute

On January 9, 2011, Debbie Friedman (zichrona livracha, may her memory be for a blessing) was taken from this world.  Her music inspired generations of Jews to sing unto God in a new way.   When it comes to Jewish liturgical composers, we often speak of how music can live on even when we are gone.  It’s hard to compare Jewish composers from years ago to an individual who was so much more than the notes she jotted on the page.  Debbie commanded the attention of those assembled, whether it was in a concert hall or an intimate camp setting.  Influenced by the folk stars around her, Debbie Friedman was a remarkable musician and master song leader.  Those attributes that made Debbie the person she was may always be remembered, never duplicated.

I had the honor of conducting a memorial sing-along last night at the Jacksonville Jewish Center. Being the 1 yr anniversary of her passing is not the same as a yartzeit (corresponding to the hebrew date), but then again there was nothing typical to how Debbie Friedman made Judaism relevant for so many contemporary Jews. I was humbled at the amazing turnout, many of whom did not really know what to expect from my “Monday Night Musicale” title.  We watched a tribute video created a few years back by URJ, and I followed by giving some personal reflections of how Debbie Friedman influenced my musical tastes, both in the synagogue and outside of it.  Debbie Friedman’s music spans beyond the walls of a synagogue, beyond the set matbea (order) of the ritual service.  If there was a prayer to be made, whether in Hebrew or in English, her music spoke in a profound way.  In many Conservative congregations, Friedman’s influence seems limited to a few liturgical settings, with the occasional addition of her powerful Mi Shebeirakh prayer.  Friedman’s songs such as “Kaddish D’rabbenan” are inspired by liturgy but speak to the common congregant through Friedman’s own words.  Other selections are inspired by quotes from famous Jewish figures (e.g “Im Tirtzu”) Tanakh (e.g “Not by Might”).  Friedman had a great sense of humor in writing “I’m a Latke” and amongst others.  I’ve come to realize that in all her works, no matter the language or context, Debbie Friedman made you feel like you were praying. The songs become relevant prayers by speaking to those who sing them.  We don’t need to be in a chapel to thank God for the gifts in our lives.  We can bless our families, teachers, and God through the notes we sing anywhere and at anytime. It makes a powerful statement that in everyday life, we can sanctify the mundane, make the ordinary spiritually uplifiting, and make any space where music is played a sacred place.

We concluded our evening with the singing of Debbie Friedman’s Birkot Havdalah.  “Havdalah,” meaning separation, is sung Saturday evening (and following festivals) as we transition from holy to mundane, from the sacredness of Shabbat to the ordinary of the week.  Just we created that sacred space last night, I hope that as we reflect on Debbie Friedman: the teachings, the lyrics, the music and the person, we can find moments within the ordinary to create the extraordinary, to bring music to life, to bring holiness to this world.

$31.50 Flavors

At last week’s Jaguar’s game, I bought two (very) small cups of macaroni and cheese and two sodas for $24.  That same day, I purchased a week’s worth of healthy food for $31.50.

Since Sunday night, I’ve participated in the Jacksonville Jewish Center’s 1st ever food stamp challenge.  Throughout the course of the week, I’ve had to find healthy, kosher options at a fraction of the price that I’m used to paying for my daily meals.  I’ve had to think of creative dishes and become more mindful of how much each grocery item costs.  Food stamps are equivalent to roughly $1.50 a meal, $4.50 a day, $31.50 a week.  There were challenges to the budget- giving up on cheese and milk from the getgo meant I needed a good source of nutrition somewhere else in my diet.

By buying in bulk, I was able to make the same meal last for a few days. While boring, it meant I had proper nutrition.  Unfortunately,  if someone suggested a better, more cost efficient option, I was locked into whatever I had purchased at the beginning of the week. What you buy is what you eat.

How to save?

Places like WalMart have the most inexpensive canned food items, but one cannot ignore the .  Again, you can’t live on buy one get one free since it’s a crapshoot to find similar items each week.  To that effect, I was stuck with 8 cans of cream corn for a week, when in reality 3 was more than enough.  That’s what Publix had, that’s what I ate.

While many circulars have great coupons, the online age of extreme couponing means that many awesome deals are not available to the general consumer who lacks a smartphone or even an internet provider.

Best Bang for Buck: Tie between Bag of Potatoes $2.50 and Tofuya Tofu $2.38.

Best item to eat as a full meal: Potatoes again. Heating up 3 potatoes for 12 minutes goes a long way. No butter needed.

Favorite meal: Pasta shells with chunks of tuna and a side of apple sauce.

Reflections of Kashrut: While Heinz beans are quite affordable (and very healthy), many of the other inexpensive soups lack proper Kosher certification (or are not kosher at all).  It’s understandable that a kosher symbol costs $$, but many items like instant meals or cheese (which would be affordable otherwise)  don’t make the Kosher police’s cut. Buy one get one free at Publix may be an issue with regard to Kashrut: there may not be kosher options (or kosher and healthy options) that week.  That’s the luck of the draw. Same goes for free samples at places like Publix, WalMart, or BJs Wholesale.

Reflections on Allergies: I have a legume allergy (to peas and lentils), immediately crossing off two inexpensive and healthy options on a tight budget.  I can’t imagine what allergies must do to someone actually living on food stamps.

Reflections on Nutrition: Nutritious items can be inexpensive, but there is no guarantee that one has the time or the means to make such meals while on food stamps. There is scarcity of resources, scarcity of time.

Food for thought and a new year’s resolution:

The scarcity and therefore the sacredness of time.  Just as we take one day out of our week to rest, we can take time out of our week to make meals rather than purchasing them on the go.  I am hoping to commit more time to home-cooked meals- to eat healthier and to save a little money in the process.  My greek pasta salad for $6 can be a home cooked one for $2.

The sacredness of time also allows for meaningful family and friend experiences.  Making food together is much more magical than ordering it in the take out line.

These are choices are hope to make in the coming year.  I chose to “be on food stamps”, and tonight I am no longer on them.  I choose to be more careful with both my wallet and my stomach. I choose to reach out to those who are hungry in our community- to support them with time and means. I hope you can join me this coming year to beat hunger.

Shabbat Shalom