By Michele Justic
A chance encounter in a college cafeteria. An erudite young man spots a beautiful young lady. Unsure of her heritage, he asks her to read from the siddur he keeps on hand. She does, and we can breathe a sigh of relief because this event around 70 years ago led to unprecedentedly successful community building in the Five Towns and Israel.
In her quiet, understated, yet also eloquent and elegant way, she helped her husband Morris, z’l, build Temple Hillel to a congregation of over 1,000, while still supporting the budding Orthodox community, teaching at the Hebrew Institute of Long Island, and raising a family deeply devoted to Israel and the Jewish community.
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky, shlita, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva of South Shore, grew up on a parallel path as the son of a community builder, HaRav Binyamin Kamenetzky, z’l. Rav Kamenetzky remembers the early days of the Five Towns with Rabbi Morris Friedman as a leader.
“He had a strong relationship with my father. It was a lonely time for my parents as the only Orthodox rabbi and rebbetzin in Woodmere. My father was befriended by Morris Friedman, a Conservative rabbi in Lynbrook. Rabbi Friedman not only monetarily supported the yeshiva but sent families he felt were ready to make the leap to Orthodoxy and yeshiva education. He was also one of the first people to give money to the mikveh of South Shore.”
Community activist Cindy Grosz grew up attending services at Temple Hillel and remembers Adelaide’s strong following among the women. “She was friends with the ladies of the Sisterhood. They would run the bazaar together and have weekends at the Concord.”
With many roles to fill, Adelaide put a strong emphasis on family. Her son, Dr. Mark Friedman, who married Rosie Gluck (daughter of philanthropists and Armitron creators Eugen and Jean, a’h), remembers his mother’s “compassionate, pure, and loving neshamah.” Daughter Naomi said her mother was “the kindest person I ever knew, and exemplified the mitzvah of shemirat ha’lashon.”
Adelaide’s son David, U.S. ambassador to Israel, recalled at the funeral, “There’s no value I can place upon the self-confidence, the security, the sense of being loved that our mother gave to us … It was an absolute joy to be your son for almost 61 years. You gave me everything necessary for a productive, happy, and meaningful life.”
5TJT publisher Larry Gordon said, “The Friedmans, Rabbi Morris and Adelaide, were proud founders in a sense of what has evolved into the vibrant Jewish communities of the Five Towns. They can now continue to beam at the accomplishments of their children and grandchildren, in particular, of course, their son David, the U.S. ambassador to Israel. It’s a high and great achievement and we share with his parents the nachas of what he has accomplished on behalf of Israel.”
In Flowers in the Desert (pages 92–95), Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky devotes a chapter to the Friedmans, and the comfort around politicians can be traced to these early days. “Like the Orthodox Rabbi Kamenetzky, Rabbi Friedman had a close affiliation with the Republican party and its political leaders, including Senator Alfonse D’Amato who lauded him in a speech to the Senate in April of 1996. This relationship reached its zenith when on October 26, 1984, Rabbi Friedman and Temple Hillel made history with a visit by President Ronald Reagan, the first time that a United States president was received by an American synagogue since President George Washington visited the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. Upon completion of a program in the main sanctuary, Rabbi and Mrs. Friedman hosted a luncheon at their home. President Reagan enjoyed Mrs. Friedman’s cooking of what she termed a Shabbos-style meal, and ‘though he was watching his weight, he cleaned his plate.’”
Noted attorney and philanthropist Ben Brafman notes, “I knew both Rebbetzin Adelaide and her late husband Rabbi Morris Friedman, first as powerful community leaders and in later years as close friends. Their leadership, integrity, and regal bearing made them mentors and examples of proud Jews that all of us should try and emulate.”
Chabad of the Five Towns director Rabbi Zalman Wolowik also has fond memories of the Friedman family, as they helped him ease into his new role as Chabad shliach, over 20 years ago. The Friedmans “appreciate Chabad because they have a lot in common — unconditional love for all of mankind and wanting to make the world a better place.”
What began as a mezuzah check for David and Tammy Friedman grew into a deep friendship between the Wolowiks and the Friedmans. The Wolowiks visited Adelaide on a regular basis and describe her as a “royal yet approachable woman.” Rabbi Wolowik notes she was very friendly and always with others. “Her presence filled the room. She had an expression of royalty from previous generations.”
Rabbi Wolowik clearly sees the path to greatness that Adelaide paved. “She raised her children to be good people. Untainted. Even when there is a disagreement, it is a respectful disagreement.” He noted that at the levayah, each grandchild described their own unique relationship with their grandmother because she treated each person as special.
Rabbi Wolowik and Rabbi Kamenetzky glowingly recall how Rabbi Friedman inspired a Sunday-school student, Moshe Weiner, to become a chassid. In Flowers in the Desert, Rabbi Kamenetzky reports, “Over his tenure of more than 45 years in the Conservative rabbinate, as rabbi of Congregation Beth David in Lynbrook and later at Temple Hillel for 33 years, he forged a relationship with the Orthodox community that was unique. Indeed, there were many families and individuals he persuaded to join the burgeoning Orthodox community of Woodmere, and was extremely charitable to yeshivas and institutions whose missions were so strictly Orthodox that many of their students and followers would not even set foot in a Conservative shul. In many ways, his imposing presence and eloquence made him a towering figure in his community and in its prime Temple Hillel had more than 1,000 members.”
Rabbi Kamenetzky continues with Rabbi Friedman’s openness to help others. “As a young boy, no older than seven years old, I remember him allowing me to address his men’s club Minyaneer Breakfast in the Social Hall of the shul and make an appeal for Tashbar, one of the most chareidi institutions in Israel. He was a magnificent fundraiser for a broad spectrum of charities, among them Boys Town in Jerusalem; Bet El, a very Orthodox yishuv in Yehuda and Shomron in Israel; Touro College’s School of Health Sciences; and Shaare Zedek Hospital, among others.”
Adelaide Friedman passed away on Monday, August 5, at the age of 91. Her legacy will live on.