Friedman, Herbert A.

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FRIEDMAN, HERBERT A. (1918– ), U.S. rabbi, executive chairman of the national United Jewish Appeal for over 20 years. Born in New Haven, Conn., to immigrant parents, Friedman graduated from Yale University (B.A.) in 1938, attended Columbia University Graduate School of Business Administration, and graduated from the Jewish Institute of Religion with a M.H.L. degree. He was ordained as a rabbi in 1944. He served as a chaplain with the Ninth Infantry Division in Germany and after World War ii spearheaded efforts to help Jewish survivors of the Nazi death camps, including work with *Beriḥah, while ministering to the needs of American soldiers. Later he served as assistant advisor on Jewish affairs to General Lucius D. Clay, commander of U.S. Occupation Forces in Germany, working with Rabbi Philip *Bernstein. His efforts included a visit to Kielce immediately after the July 4, 1946, pogrom that resulted in the decision to open the American sector to Jews fleeing Poland. During that period, he was secretly recruited into the *Haganah and worked in the *illegal immigration operation called "Aliyah Bet." He was subsequently decorated by the State of Israel for that service.

While serving an anti-Zionist congregation in Denver, he was active in clandestinely securing desperately needed arms for Israel. He was one of the founders of the Israel Bond organization, invited by David Ben-Gurion to the formation meeting in Jerusalem in September 1950. In 1955, he became the executive vice chairman of the uja national campaign and executive chairman in 1970.

Throughout three decades he was present at critical moments in the life of Jewish communities in many countries: pogroms in Morocco in 1955; flight of Hungarian and Egyptian refugees in 1956; exodus from Romania in 1957. He also studied conditions in Iran, Poland, and Tunisia. Just before the outbreak of the Six-Day War in 1967, he was in Israel for talks with Jewish Agency and government leaders, which resulted in the historic Israel Emergency Fund that raised millions of dollars for Israel in the fearful days preceding the war and the immediate post-war euphoria.

He created the uja Young Leadership Cabinet, bringing together young men and women from all over the country and instilling within them a philosophy of Judaism and a sense of commitment. He also created a peer network among the most Jewishly philanthropic young Jews. He developed the uja Overseas Mission concept, which has escorted scores of thousands of American Jews to Israel, and many thousands to the sites of the Nazi camps. He established the Israel Education Fund, which built high schools, libraries, and kindergartens throughout the country. Friedman and his family settled in Jerusalem in 1971.

Upon returning to the U.S. in 1978, Friedman assumed the position of president of the American Friends of Tel Aviv University. At an age when many would retire, he entered an even more creative phase. He was co-founder with Leslie Wexner in 1985 of the Wexner Heritage Foundation, dedicated to the education of leadership groups in Jewish communities throughout the United States, training cadres of young and promising affluent and highly positioned Jews in a two-year seminar in Jewish history and tradition so that they are prepared to assume leadership roles.


H.A. Friedman, Roots to the Future (1999).

[Lori Baron (2nd ed.)]

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