By Hillel Davis
On Saturday night, March 7, the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach will iy’H hold its annual dinner. The school will be honoring Sharon and Jeffrey Frieling as the very special Guests of Honor and paying tribute to 30 graduates, young men and women who have gone on to serve in the Israeli army or in sheirut leumi.
A special portion of the evening will be the dedication of Shaar Simcha Tzvi–the entrance to the new Woodmere campus that is being prepared to house the lower and middle schools of HALB–in memory of Rabbi Dr. Armin Friedman, zt’l.
Rabbi Friedman, who passed away this past summer, was the principal of an institution in Long Beach that began in 1955 with just 12 students. For 36 years, he built and nurtured an institution and laid the foundation for a makom Torah that now educates 1,600 students ages 2 to 18 in four locations around the South Shore.
Rabbi Friedman represented a synthesis of the finest of Pressburg Jewry and Yeshiva University. Before the war, he was a student of the renowned Hungarian yeshivot, and after the war he was a talmid of Rav Dovid Lifschitz, zt’l, and a musmach of the Rav. He earned his doctorate in education from YU and was on faculty at both Brooklyn College and the Azrieli Graduate School of Yeshiva University. Before coming to HALB, Rabbi Friedman taught at Ramaz and Manhattan Day School, where he was also the assistant principal. His deep-seated love for EretzYisrael manifested itself in his decision to make aliyah with his wife, Chava, immediately after their retirement and the fact that their three children settled in Israel and have raised their families there.
To know a bit about Rabbi Friedman, one should read the words that Rabbi Berel Wein wrote after Rabbi Friedman’s death:
I am reminded of all of this by the passing of my friend and congregant, Rabbi Dr. Armin Friedman, this past week. A survivor of the Holocaust, left alone and bereft, he rebuilt his life with purpose and family, Torah and public service. He devoted his life to educating Jewish children in Torah and tradition and to give them the necessary tools for success in a competitive and changing world.
Though at times he spoke of the experiences of his youth in the camps, he did not allow himself to be consumed by them. Though he questioned the circumstances that allowed the Holocaust, he never wavered in his loyalty to the Gâ€‘d of Israel and to His Torah. He and many others like him of that heroic generation looked forward and he and they were determined to build a stronger Jewish world than even the one that had been so ruthlessly destroyed.
Building and teaching, helping and encouraging, these were the goals of his life, his justification of survival and of life itself. That was a generation of driven people, determined to rebuild and not succumb. And it is upon their attitudes and actions that our current generation and those generations that will yet follow will continue building and educating the Jewish world.
Aristocratic, soft-spoken, determined, and scholarly, he was a fine representative of his home and upbringing. But in his accomplishments against many obstacles after the Holocaust, we witnessed his true mettle and faith. The departure of that person and of his generation is a sad moment for all of us.
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Rabbi Friedman left an indelible impression on every person who passed through the halls of HALB–student, parent, faculty, or staff member. He was a gifted educator with extraordinary insight into American children, and he dealt with people honestly and directly. He commanded a presence–tall and dignified, with a special hadratpanim and a perfect English with his European accent–that made people immediately respect him and what he had to say. And yet he was an outstanding listener. Parents used to say, “When we spoke to him, he made us believe we were the only people in the world.”
The students, from the innocents of the preschool through the sophisticated junior-high students, respected him for his honesty, his integrity, and his genuine concern for their well-being. To this day, some 25 years after his retirement, there is not a student who studied in HALB during his time as principal who does not remember his announcements, his admonitions about wasting food, and his instructions before they went on a school trip about their responsibilities to be mekadeshHashem.
But perhaps in retrospect what is most amazing about Rabbi Friedman and his accomplishments is that 25 years after he retired and made aliyah, the blueprint he envisioned and then set in motion remains the driving force behind the school, its education, and its hashkafah. His emphasis on middot and derecheretz and his sensitivity to the needs of each and every individual remain the hallmark of all the divisions of Yeshivat Lev.
He took tremendous pride in the fact that his school at the time was the only school that ran a Thursday-night mishmar, had school six days a week, and also marched in the Israel Day parade. HALB was perhaps the only co-ed school that ran separate classes for boys and girls from the first grade and up. He would point to the bookshelves in his office that displayed not only the current issue of the Jewish Observer but also Rabbi Lamm’s most recent publication. He had an amazing ability to draw from the best of what the Torah community had to offer and to convey that to his students in meaningful and impactful ways.
And that legacy has remained with HALB as it has grown from the 400 students who attended when he retired through the phenomenal growth of HALB as a Torah institution and a beacon of Torah on the South Shore of Long Island. From the yeshiva in Long Beach that once primarily served the Long Beach and Oceanside communities, HALB now has four locations, a boys’ high school and a girls’ high school, students from the Five Towns, the Rockaways, Brooklyn, Queens, and all over Nassau County, and a reputation as a premier educational institution–both in limudeikodesh and limudeichol. But through all the growth, the roots remain those that were firmly planted by Rabbi Friedman–yafyafutoshel Torah b’oholei Shem, as he was wont to say–the grandeur of Torah embedded within Hashem’s glorious world.
How appropriate is it that every student who enters the new building, which will house both the lower school and middle school, will pass through the area designated as Shaar Simcha Tzvi, for they are truly entering a mikdash that is built on the legacy of the founding principal, Rabbi Dr. Armin H. Friedman, zt’l.