President-elect Donald Trump chose David Friedman to be his ambassador to Israel on Thursday. He’s a unique choice for the role, breaking with a long held policy consensus in denouncing the two state solution and backing settlements. Here are five facts about him.
1. New Yorker
Friedman grew up in Woodmere, New York as the son of Morris Friedman. Head of the New York Board of Rabbis, Morris preached from a Conservative pulpit in Long Island. He attended Columbia for his undergraduate degree and New York University for his law degree, which launched him into a legal career focused on bankruptcy.
2. Young Host to Ronald Reagan
Friedman’s appointment was hailed by the Republican Jewish Coalition, and that’s perhaps as much to do with his GOP pedigree as with his Israel stances. More than three decades ago, the Friedmans opened their home to President Ronald Reagan, who paid a visit to Morris Friedman’s synagogue and then had lunch with the family during one Shabbat. It was the first trip by a sitting president to a Jewish house of worship since President George Washington’s time.
3. Thinks Liberal Jews Are Worse Than “Kapos”
Friedman, who writes a column for the far-right Arutz Sheva news outlet, wrote in a June piece that members of the pro-peace Israel group J Street are “far worse” than kapos, Nazi prison guards. “The kapos faced extraordinary cruelty and who knows what any of us would have done under those circumstances to save a loved one?” he opined. “But J Street? They are just smug advocates of Israel’s destruction delivered from the comfort of their secure American sofas – it’s hard to imagine anyone worse.” As Ha’aretz has documented, Friedman has also pumped tens of millions of dollars into West Bank settlements through his own fund.
4. No Diplomatic Experience
Besides his Israel advocacy, and serving on an advisory council on the Jewish state for Trump, Friedman has no diplomatic experience. He represents creditors in bankruptcy cases at his law practice, Kasowitz Benson Torres and Friedman LLP. He is, however, a fluent Hebrew speaker.
5. Personal Friend of Trump
Trump and Friedman struck up a friendship after Trump paid a shiva call to him in 2005, following the death of his father. According to an article in the Forward, the visit came amid a fierce snowstorm, with many people canceling on Friedman. But Trump showed up, and the two had an hourlong conversation. Clearly that made a lasting impression.
Daniel J. Solomon is the Assistant to the Editor/News Writer at the Forward. Originally from Queens, he attended Harvard as an undergraduate, where he wrote his senior thesis on French-Jewish intellectual history. He is excited to have returned to New York after his time in Massachusetts. Daniel’s passions include folk music, cycling, and pointed argument.