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The Journey Song by Debbie Friedman 

03/26/2023 08:22:58 PM


    In the mid 1990's, I served a congregation in Westchester, NY. In those years the ground breaking Jewish singer/songwriter Debbie Friedman was leading Passover seders for women. These sedarim inspired many communities to create their own womens sedarim (seders). Haggadot were compiled incorporating women's themes. In 2000, the first edition of  "The Journey Continues"  Haggadah   was published by Ma'ayan, The Jewish Women's Project,  a program of the JCC of Manhattan. This Haggadah interpreted the seder through the lens and experiences of Jewish women and feminism. The editors struggled with the masculine language of our prayers  traditional prayers and offered alternative language. The traditional four cups of wine are used to honor Jewish women, leaders and teachers. Readings and poetic material focused on the experiences of women. New rituals such as the inclusion of a Miriam's cup were initiated. 

      I was more of a traditionalist. I always found the  traditional text and  songs fulfilling and did not feel I NEEDED to reinterpret the seder in this way. But, as a female Cantor in Westchester I was invited to join the female clergy and collaborate on a  womens seder there. Later, my synagogue in New Jersey also hosted womens seders.   Although I was  reluctant at first, I slowly found meaning in these sedarim.  One year I had the opportunity to attend one of the seders led by Debbie Friedman and I have to say it was an experience I will never forget. Part concert, part seder, it was hard not to be swept away by the energy.  These sedarim were attended by 300 or more women of diverse ages. It was powerful and emotional in a way I was not prepared for. There was dancing and joy and camaraderie. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I attended a second time.  I would say these sedarim are among the most memorable seders I have ever experienced. 

     One of my favorite songs written by Debbie Friedman is called "The Journey Song." It imagines that moment that the Israelites are leaving Egypt and have to muster their faith to began a journey into the unknown. The melody evokes the rocking motion of walking. The lyrics ask "Where does the journey begin, where will we go... The years pass, the answers will change as we keep moving along." This song puts us in the sandals of the Israelites just as the Haggadah tells us to recite the story of Passover as if we ourselves experienced the Exodus. It also invites us to think about our own personal and Jewish journeys. This song never fails to move me. Listen to Debbie Friedman singing the song:  The Journey Song Debbie Friedman. To hear more about the Womens Seder of Debbie Friedman,: Rabbi Sue Elwell speaking about Debbie Friedman's womens seder

Wed, April 17 2024 9 Nisan 5784