Her­bert Fried­man


The Jewish Chronicle - - Obituaries -

THE FUNDRAISER for Deb­o­rah Lip­stadt’s le­gal fight against David Irv­ing, Rabbi Her­bert Fried­man was one of Amer­i­can Jewry’s most pro­lific lead­ers, writes Nathan Jeffay.

His many other roles in­cluded serv­ing as a US army chap­lain, Ha­ganah peo­ple-traf­ficker and arms-trans­porter, head­ing a ma­jor Jewish char­ity, and train­ing hun­dreds of Jewish com­mu­nal lead­ers.

The son of East Euro­pean im­mi­grants, he grad­u­ated from Yale in 1938 and pro­ceeded to study at the He­brew Union Col­lege, the Re­form Ju­daism train­ing cen­tre, where he was or­dained as a rabbi in 1943.

Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War he served as an Amer­i­can army chap­lain and be­came ad­viser on Jewish af­fairs to the com­man­der of US oc­cu­pa­tion forces in Ger­many.

In the fraught weeks and months af­ter lib­er­a­tion, he helped many sur­vivors on a prac­ti­cal and spir­i­tual level, and turned Ber­lin Town Hall into the venue for a seder in 1946.

Hav­ing wit­nessed the Jews stream­ing out of the camps, he saw his next re­spon­si­bil­ity as en­sur­ing their pas­sage to Pales­tine.

Serv­ing in the Ha­ganah, Is­rael’s prestate army, at the re­quest of Zion­ist leader and Is­rael’s fu­ture first prime min­is­ter David Ben Gu­rion, he helped orches­trate the il­le­gal ship­ments of Jews to Pales­tine.

He com­man­deered Amer­i­can army trucks and trans­ported sur­vivors to Ital­ian ports where they boarded ships for Pales­tine. He also helped with the pro­vi­sion of arms to the Ha­ganah.

Re­turn­ing to the US in 1954, he con­tin­ued to help the young state’s de­vel­op­ment. He be­came ex­ec­u­tive vice-chair­man of the ma­jor Amer­i­can fundrais­ing body for Is­rael, the United Jewish Ap­peal, which now in­cluded the United Jewish Com­mu­ni­ties.

He is be­lieved to have raised over £1.5 bil­lion for Is­rael dur­ing his 17 years in the job. One of his ma­jor achieve­ments was rais­ing money for the con­struc­tion of 119 schools, to rem­edy the un­der-achieve­ment of Sephardi im­mi­grants. He also pi­o­neered the con­cept of sol­i­dar­ity vis­its to Is­rael.

When he left the UJA in 1972, he moved to Is­rael where he helped to build the pres­ence of Re­form Ju­daism. He was se­nior ex­ec­u­tive with the World Union for Pro­gres­sive Ju­daism and founded the Jerusalem So­ci­ety for the Ad­vance­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and Cul­ture.

In 1978 he re­turned to the US and be­came pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Friends of Tel Aviv Univer­sity. He left the post in 1985 and, to­gether with cloth­ing re­tailer Les­lie H Wexner, set up an in­sti­tu­tion to boost Jewish lead­er­ship.

Head­ing the Wexner Her­itage Foun­da­tion for a decade, he trained hun­dreds of peo­ple to take lead­er­ship roles in Jewish com­mu­ni­ties. Its grad­u­ates to­day lead com­mu­ni­ties in 31 cities across North Amer­ica. Many of them set up plu­ral­is­tic Jewish day schools, which he viewed as es­sen­tial for the fu­ture well­be­ing of North Amer­i­can Jewry.

The foun­da­tion’s longserv­ing staff mem­bers in­clude his­to­rian Deb­o­rah Lip­stadt, who was sued for li­bel by the Holo­caust de­nier and re­vi­sion­ist his­to­rian, David Irv­ing, in the English courts. She suc­cess­fully de­fended her­self in a head­line­grab­bing High Court case in 2000.

Dr Lip­stadt recorded in her mem­oirs her shock at learn­ing that her le­gal costs would ex­ceed £500,000. Al­though Rabbi Fried­man had re­tired as di­rec­tor of the foun­da­tion, he was still in­volved in its work and told her that he would take care of her wel­fare and the fi­nances of the case.

The rea­son for his con­cern was, as he told the Jewish scholar: “Irv­ing set his sights on you, but it’s the en­tire Jewish com­mu­nity and his­tor­i­cal truth that he is aiming at.”

A keen reader and art col­lec­tor, Rabbi Fried­man is sur­vived by his sec­ond wife, Francine; two daugh­ters and a son from his first mar­riage; two sons from his sec­ond mar­riage; four grand­chil­dren; and two great-grand­chil­dren.

Her­bert Fried­man: Amer­i­can-Jewish leader

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