Limmud is an international movement of study and friendship, of Jewish identity and identification. It literally means- “ to learn” and was founded 30 years ago by four educators in l980 as a retreat attended by 70 participants. In 2012, it drew over 2600 Jews from all over the world, the longest Limmud experience, but one of 60 communities in more than 25 countries. All Limmud groups are committed to learning, diversity and volunteers. The success of Limmud is mainly due to the open mindedness and inclusiveness that is sorely needed in our world and in our Jewish organizations. I had the privilege of participating in Limmud UK at the University of Warwick in February, teaching 6 workshops from Jewish huck embroidery to Cantorial Music for the 21st Century. Parodies, Gems of My Grandfather’s Music, Beloved Shabbat Melodies, and Voices from our Side of the Curtain were included. I loved meeting Jews from so many different countries, everyone eager to learn and soak up the incredible energy of Limmud UK. For most people it is transformative and it was common to meet people who had attended for many years- it is something you don’t want to miss once you experience it! It is rare to sit in a class where the teacher is head of Jewish school, senior instructors at Pardes Institute in Jerusalem, members of the Israeli Bar, Knesset, leaders in AIPAC, Hillel, a former Mossad agent! All of this could occur in one day at Limmud.
My husband Scott attended Limmud as well, and took part in every moment possible. Our most interesting moment happened at breakfast one day. After speaking with a Russian woman, a sociologist who gave a lecture about the Jewish community in Russia today, we noticed an elderly man sitting quietly across from us . After about 20 minutes I introduced myself, feeling awkward about not including him in the conversation. He said he was a lawyer from London who moved to Israel to find legal work many years ago. He then said, he worked in military intelligence. I asked him, “ You mean, the MOSSAD?”. He said, “yes, my work has just been declassified so I can speak about it.” What followed was amazing- this unassuming man was in charge of the technical aspects of rescuing 900 Ethiopians in Operation Solomon, getting them to Israel from the Sudan. He then told us he was one month away from bringing the infamous Dr. Mengele from Argentina to Israel. They had his location and were planning to take him, but he passed away one month before the mission was finalized.
That afternoon I heard a lecture from a brilliant senior Pardes Bible scholar who examined the abuses of power in Biblical times and in modern times. She ended her talk with a reference to sexual abuse issues in clergy leadership, which I have become active in through Jewish Women International and our local Danbury Women’s Center. She herself was a victim of a rabbi growing up. The interest was so strong, she gave a lecture on it the next day. Judy Klitsner, also was on the panel “ Voices from Our Side of The Curtain” I was fortunate to share with her. As an orthodox woman scholar, she was clearly a scholar and rabbinical in her own way. Later that day we heard a senior leader from AIPAC talk about what it takes to be a strategic ally of the USA. It was interesting to hear the perception of America from so many different countries. We all understood why Israel is so important to America and to the civilized world.
Choosing from dozens of lectures at any given time slot was challenging, and rewarding. There were programs for children, young families, and everyone else. Lighting the menorah each night of Hanukkah was special, and I was delighted to lead the candlelighting one of those nights with children singing songs I had taught them that day. We are all connected- we share so many common bonds, and Limmud helps strengthen them.
I encourage you to look at the www.limmud.org website. Find a Limmud program and attend! The Jerusalem Post says, “ Limmud may be a new sociological phenomenon”. May we all rekindle our love of Judaism through study and sharing in the Limmud experience.
Cantor Deborah Katchko-Gray Congregation Shir Shalom 46 Peaceable Street Ridgefield, CT 06877 203-438-5609 (study) 203-482-1726 (cell)
Our Wedding Ceremony was PERFECT!
Derek and I want to thank you! The wedding ceremony was perfect! We got so many compliments on the ceremony! They loved the songs you sang, the Jewish traditions and how it was personalized for Derek and I.
Thank you so much for everything! We really appreciate everything you have done for us leading up to as well as on the wedding day.
Jessica (Moll) and Derek Sanderoff
Best Day Ever!
Thank-you for being such a special part of our wedding weekend!
Your music and spirit helped make it truly the best day…ever!
Ari and Darren Leva
Connecticut based Cantor Deborah Katchko has wide appeal. With a strong and soulful voice, she covers a broad range of songs in several languages, exposing us to Jewish culture from various times and places.
Boston University Alumni Magazine
We are all indebted to Deborah Katchko Gray for this new publication which will preserve her grandfather’s music, complete with modern innovations, for generations to come to grateful practitioners of the art of HAZZANUT.
Hazzan Jacob Ben Zion Mendelson
Hazzan Deborah Katchko-Gray supported by flutist Mattan Klein and Seeds of Sun…just rocked the house and blew the roof off of Beth Judah for almost two hours. A mix between Mid-East, Israeli, Jewish pop, cantorial, Yiddish and kid-family friendly favorites..add to that a rather hot Israeli jazz trio and you have an explosive, energetic reaction. Everyone was clicking on all cylinders and the crowd ate it up.
Debbie is the real deal and can deliver it all. She has a powerful and sweet voice that works well in various styles and involved us locals nicely.
Hazzan Alan Smolen
This edition marks one of the most innovative, important, and creative blending of guitar and Jewish music. It surely will not take away from those Cantors who wish to chant either capella, or with piano or organ, but for those Cantors skilled in playing guitar, this will be a loving and long lasting companion which, I am sure, will touch the hears and souls of the next generation of Jews to hear this incredible music.
Rabbi/Cantor Jon Haddon
In telling her story of living history and astonishing discovery, Cantor Deborah Katchko-Gray brings to life the love and faithfulness of holocaust survivors and the generations who remember them. People of faith will be embraced by Cantor Debbie’s generous spirit, learn first hand about the important of remembrance and rekindle their hope for a peaceful world.
Reverend Marc Delcuze
I am almost without words to say how much I enjoyed your concert at Beth El on Saturday night. You are so multi-talented and you have a beautiful radiant quality that truly glows and really touched me. I was impressed with your story telling and also with the way you shared your personal experiences and your family with us. I hope I have the opportunity to see you and hear you again! WOW-thank you !
Thank-you again for a wonderful concert- Inspiring, beautiful and fun!
I’ve listened to a lot of traditional Jewish holiday song recordings and most, for one reason or another should not have been made. But, this one is significantly different. First, Deborah Katchko has a warm, rich voice. Second, she sings honestly. What do I mean? There are no tricks to this recording, just Deborah and her guitar and she’s making music. Third, she includes 25 ethnic songs full of information and history. This is a Hanukkah gift for the entire family.
If your tastes run to such classics as Yerushalayim Shel Zahav and you enjoy everything from Sephardic to Yiddish to contemporary pop, Katchko’s soprano renditions and acoustic rhythms are the perfect musical menu for you. Her inspiring version of , ” The Place Where I Belong” will have you singing along.
Nurturing our family’s Jewish identity is an art, rather than a science. Fortunately people like Deborah Katchko can help. Her three cds offer a rich array of traditional and contemporary Jewish music suffused with her warm and welcoming spirit.
Jewish Woman Magazine
Thank YOU Cantor Debbie!
You were a tremendous part of the event. Your guitar was very exciting and your song selections so uplifting. The moms loved your performance…It was a truly fun and inspiring time with you in the Sukkah.
Director Women’s Philanthropy / Program Manager, PJ Library / UJA Greenwich, CT
One of our most successful Scholar – In – Residence programs ever ! She brings an accomplished voice, and a lively spirit that will fill your synagogue with music and joy. Cantor Debbie led Friday night and Shabbat morning services and a sing-along program for children and adults on Sunday morning. Her music, voice and personality enchanted all of our members.
Rabbi Martin I. Sandberg
I find you to be a first-rate hazzan and a consummate artist…your cds are a shining example of what we should aim to emulate.
Cantor Pinchas Spiro (of blessed memory)
Finding Family Through Song”- A Story – The presentation given by Cantor Katchko-Gray of Temple Shearith Israel of Ridgefield, CT on Thursday October 29th, 2009 was a remarkable presentation. This was an inspiring and moving story of music, faith and family beautifully told. We think it was definately one of the very best programs that the Mary Brewster Fund has offered!
Katchko-Gray can reproduce “ that old sound” by calling on melodies she received personally in true oral tradition.
Scales Out of Shul May 2007
Deborah Katchko is such a wonderful gift to our festival!
National Children’s Choir Director
Your Wonderful CDs
I received the CDs yesterday. They are both great! Your voice is fantastic and the kids sound delightful. I also really enjoyed the instrumental arrangements. You did a marvelous job of singing, The First Candle We Light On Hanuukah. The flute was really cool. I loved it. And the instrumetnal version of Shabbat Means with the saxophone was inspired.
Thank you so much for recording these songs and for sending me the CDs. Good luck with the sales!
Regarding Shabbat Jam and Hanukkah Songs of Light and Hope
Larry S. Kaplan ( ASCAP)
Just this morning, we were privileged to have our colleague, Deborah Katchko-Gray, as our guest artist/scholar at my temple in Amenia, New York. In addition to her co-officiation with me at the worship service, she presented the program, “Gems of my Grandfather: Music, Ideas, and Visions of Cantor Adolph Katchko,.” as part of our adult education. Although almost all of us have been deeply influenced by the music of Adolph Katchko, Deborah added a dimension of insight, examples I have never heard before, and even a duet of “Adonai Malach” which was truly inspiring. I would wholeheartedly urge you to consider Deborah as a scholar-in-residence or a guest lecturer. The congregation could not have been more moved or appreciative of this excellent program.
Rabbi/Cantor Jon Haddon
Cantor-in-Residence – Wonderful Musical Weekend!
We were fortunate to have Cantor Deborah Katchko-Gray at Temple B’nai Abraham as our Cantor-In-Residence for a wonderful musical weekend. Debbie led some of our services, had us singing new songs and melodies, and taught some wonderful holiday song parodies to our students, who then performed them for us at a Sunday Brunch. Oh…and we learned about her Cantorial heritage and heard some real Gems of her Grandfather’s Music. It was a homecoming of sorts as years ago, she became a Bat Mitzvah at our synagogue and her father had been one of our Cantors. Debbie connected with our members, young and old, and two of our students even asked after her Friday evening service if we could do this every month.
Rabbi Michael G. Kohn
Temple B’nai Abraham / Meriden, CT
Impressively eclectic, Deborah Katchko – another pioneer female cantor puts a refreshing, colorful spin on quintessentially Jewish songs and stories. Drawing upon Middle East rock, Country Western and traditional and contemporary Jewish melodies, Katchko’s powerful voice can sound both sensual and spiritual.
Your American Jewish Songbook selections were a perfect blend of English, Yiddish and Hebrew-appreciated by all. Your stage presence and hamische introductions of hte band and the songs added and extra measure of charm to the beauty of your voice and the wonderful sounds of your group. Your lead guitarist David, and the pianist were particularly outstanding……we were all blown away by the warmth and family feeling you created on our stage/bimah.!!
Steve Stein, MD
If a teacher had but one student- you- it would be Dayenu!……your songs bring joy to my heart!