Lansing State Journal – What’s On, Lansing, MI
One of the great struggles in contemporary religion is how to make it relevant to young people and non-practicing members. Singer-songleader Debbie Friedman revolutionized Jewish liturgical music in the 1970s, and her influence is still heard in synagogues and at Jewish youth camps today. By reaching out through music, sanctuaries went from a cantor singing at the congregation to a songleader singing with the congregation. This film gives a jolt of spiritual inspiration to anyone interested in modern Judaism, modern women or modern folk music. You’ll be hard-pressed not to sing along. Friedman, a sort of Jewish Joan Baez, uses music to transport prayer out of synagogues and into life. It’s an uplifting journey.
—Robin Swartz, What’s On Editor
City Pages, Minneapolis, MN
Filmmaker Ann Coppel and her crew followed the New York-based Friedman for several years, and the result is this uplifting documentary about a woman who cheerfully embraces her role as a maverick while appreciating the responsibilities that go along with it. A Journey of Spirit examines the debate over the uses of contemporary and traditional prayer music, in addition to observing Friedman’s groundbreaking efforts to earn respect as a woman within a faith that remains dominated by male voices. Coppel captures the many issues surrounding Friedman in a lively and engaging manner, developing the artist’s arguments in ways that ultimately lead to acceptance by many of her would-be detractors.
— Caroline Palmer, Movie Reviewer
Jewish Educator, Seattle
At one point in the documentary Friedman says, “first we need to get them in the door,” referring to the argument by some cantors that Jews should pray in the traditional way. It is important for Jewish students today to realize that there are contemporary role models who are attempting to make Judaism more approachable. Debbie Friedman embraces the liturgy through her melodies; she translates and brings the words of the sages and prophets down to us, the teachers and the students in the summer camps, day schools and supplementary religious schools. Friedman makes the liturgy user friendly. This film should be required viewing for any student or teacher who sings a Jewish song.
— Tammy Kay Kaiser, CDS, ECE, MSJS
CAJE 28 (2003)
When we decided to show your documentary about Debbie Friedman at CAJE late on the last night of the conference, I wondered whether we would get an audience. The fact that several hundred weary educators were there attests to the attraction of the topic. The majority of the audience stayed for the Q and A’s. It was provocative, fascinating, and a great way to end an educators’ conference.… In time, I hope that all congregations interested in growth will get to see the film. It can be a dynamic educational tool, a trigger to discussions about nusach, change, courage of one’s convictions, and Jewish continuity. As Chairperson of CAJE 28, I will always be proud that you allowed us to preview the rough cut.
— Judy Aronson, Chairperson CAJE 28
Hebrew Union College — Jewish Institute of Religion
“Debbie Friedman and her music have transformed the American Jewish scene. Her work touches so many people and is crossing many denominational boundaries. People want to learn from Debbie and I can’t think of a better way to reach this wide audience than through your documentary.”
— Rabbi Kerry Olitzky
Council of Reform & Liberal Rabbis, Great Britain
“Debbie has now done three concert tours here in Britain, and has been loved, admired and appreciated by all those she has touched. The more people know and hear about her, the greater her impact, and a film introducing Debbie and her music will be a great project…In a not insignificant way, I believe that Debbie Friedman and her songs really have changed our world a little.”
— Rabbi Jonathan M. Black, Administrator