Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Forward 50 2015

Tom Frieden

For six months up to April 2015, Tom Frieden, 55, felt the weight of America’s panic. As the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Frieden was the government’s principal contact in stopping the Ebola virus epidemic in America.

Starting in 2013, Ebola had ravaged West Africa, killing thousands. Proving difficult to quarantine, the disease spread and in late 2014 the U.S. government felt compelled to carry out medical evacuations of Americans from West Africa.

At the center of the media frenzy and panic that followed, Frieden, 55, was criticized for the CDC’s unclear protocol for medical personnel to deal with Ebola that led to the death of a patient and two nurses contracting the virus. In April Frieden faced tough questioning at a congressional hearing where he acknowledged that, though casualties were few and the outbreak was contained, the CDC could have handled the outbreak differently. And he called for investment in national and international health infrastructure.

Youngest of three brothers (one of whom is currently chairman of Judaic studies at Syracuse University), Frieden grew up in Westchester, New York, in a mostly secular family. Before he moved to Atlanta with his wife and two children to be near the CDC headquarters, Frieden was New York City’s commissioner of health and mental hygiene. Honored as the 2005 public official of the year by Governing magazine, he was described as “the consummate Jewish mom — except that he isn’t nudging you about wearing a scarf….

[Frieden’s admonitions] relate to much more serious illnesses.”

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.