David Friedman was in his element, as the bankruptcy lawyer had a legal pad and pencil by his side as he would in court, at his confirmation hearing in front of the 21-member Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Feb. 16.
Studiously prepared, Friedman, 57, a native of North Woodmere who now lives in the Village of Woodsburgh, showed what longtime friend Shalom Maidenbaum called a “very ambassadorial” side and the poise that made him a successful litigator.
The son of a rabbi, Friedman could now be taking his skills to one of the most contentious regions of the world. As of press time, he was awaiting for confirmation by the full Senate to be the 20th U.S. envoy to Israel since the position was created in 1948, the year Israel was established as an independent country.
“We’re incredibly proud of him,” said Maidenbaum, who has known Friedman for 30 years, and was in Washington, D.C. for his longtime friend’s confirmation hearing. “I’m personally proud how hard he has worked and how well-suited he is for it.”
After serving as one of President Donald Trump’s advisers on Jewish affairs during the presidential campaign, Friedman was named by the president to be the ambassador to Israel on Dec. 15.
Friedman’s father, Rabbi Morris Friedman, was an iconic figure in the Orthodox Jewish community, and was one of the founders of the modern Orthodox movement. Rabbi Friedman was the spiritual leader at Temple Hillel in North Woodmere. He hosted President Ronald Reagan, when he visited the Five Towns in 1984, at both his home and synagogue.
“It’s tremendous for all the Five Towns community,” said Iris Maidenbaum, Shalom’s wife. “It’s amazing to think if his father was here today, he would overwhelmed with pride. I’m incredibly proud to be his friend, to call him a friend. He will do a great job. His heart is in the right place.”
Friedman’s views from wanting the capital of Israel to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, being a proponent of expanding the West Bank settlements, questioning the viability of the two-state solution and calling the liberal lobbyist group J Street group worse than kapos,” Jews who supervised forced labor in the Nazi concentration camps, have been well documented.
Maidenbaum had an answer for those that do not believe his friend cannot represent the U.S. in this position. “During the confirmation hearing he was able to distinguish himself in the political arena as a Jewish advocate, and an advocate for all of America on both sides of the aisle.”
Longtime Lawrence resident Ron Goldman and Friedman have been close friends for many years. Goldman has served on the boards of several religious and education institutions in the Five Towns with the new ambassador, including the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway.
“I always found him to have a deep-rooted sensitivity matched with well-reasoned judgment,” Goldman said. “He is a thoughtful and fair-minded guy, who sees the humanity in many things and how it impacts every decision you make.”