Rabbi Herbert A. Friedman—a prominent and dynamic rabbi, Zionist, philanthropist, educator, and communal leader—committed his entire life to the safety and welfare of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. This is evidenced by his work as a World War II chaplain charged with relieving the plight of Jewish refugees in Europe, his early Zionist activities, his service as Executive Vice Chairman of the United Jewish Appeal, his life in Israel, and his work to strengthen Jewish leadership through the Wexner Heritage Foundation.
A generous donation from Leslie and Abigail Wexner has enabled The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of American Jewish Archives (AJA) to digitize Rabbi Friedman’s historic papers that span the years 1930 through 2003. Rabbi Friedman donated his collection to the AJA in 2006. The online archive is available here.
“The significance of the Rabbi Herbert A. Friedman Digital Collection cannot be overstated,” noted Dr. Gary P. Zola, Executive Director of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of American Jewish Archives and the Edward M. Ackerman Family Distinguished Professor of the American Jewish Experience & Reform Jewish History at HUC-JIR, Cincinnati. “Here we have documented the work of a man who dedicated his entire life to the welfare of the Jewish people in the Diaspora and in Israel through his philanthropy, advocacy, and activism. In fact, as a U.S. Army chaplain who rose to the rank of Captain during WWII, Friedman helped to smuggle thousands of one-of-a-kind medieval religious manuscripts, captured by the Nazis, from U.S. Army custody to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Though he was disciplined and decommissioned (but given an honorable discharge), he did not regret his action or his many other ‘illegal or borderline-legal acts long forgotten’, as he once wrote. He was fond of saying, ‘do it right’ as he pleaded for Jews around the globe to do all they could to strengthen Israel and hence, the Jewish people around the globe. This collection—spanning some of the most turbulent periods in modern Jewish history—is a deep and vital resource for students, scholars, teachers, and historians throughout the world.”
Herbert Aaronson Friedman (1918-2008) was born in 1918 to Latvian and Lithuanian parents in New Haven, CT. Rabbi Friedman demonstrated this life-long commitment to Zionism beginning with his earliest days in rabbinical school. After graduating from Yale University in 1938, Friedman studied under the esteemed Zionist leader, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, at the Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City. With Wise as the school's president and Henry Slonimsky as dean, Friedman gained two trusted mentors to guide and nurture his spiritual and intellectual growth as a young rabbi. As the chief executive of the United Jewish Appeal (a forerunner of the contemporary United Jewish Communities) in the 1950s and 1960s, Friedman implemented fundraising strategies that raised hundreds of millions of dollars for Israel and also became foundational principles of modern American Jewish philanthropy. As a co-founder in 1985 (with Leslie Wexner) of the Wexner Heritage Foundation, Rabbi Friedman expanded his work to include education and training of Jewish leaders.
The arrangement of the Rabbi Herbert A. Friedman Digital Archive reflects the original order of the material as compiled and organized by Rabbi Friedman. “The AJA is deeply grateful to Leslie and Abigail Wexner for helping the AJA to make this entire collection instantly accessible for one and all.” said Dr. Zola.
For questions or additional information, please contact the AJA at 513-487-3319.