NEW YORK, Jan. 20, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- American Jewish Committee (AJC) mourns the passing of Howard Friedman, who served as president of the premier global Jewish advocacy organization from 1983 to 1986. He was 92 years old.
A longtime partner in the Los Angeles law firm of Loeb and Loeb, Friedman served as Deputy Attorney General for the State of California from 1955 to 1957. Before being elected AJC President, the first person on the West Coast to hold the position, he served as Chair of AJC's Board of Governors, Chair of AJC's Board of Trustees, and President of AJC Los Angeles. He was an AJC Honorary President from 1986 till his death.
"I had the privilege of knowing Howard during the years of his presidency and thereafter," said AJC CEO David Harris. "Without any exaggeration, he had one of the sharpest minds I have ever encountered. An exceptionally gifted speaker and writer, he was a consummate ambassador and advocate for AJC in the halls of power, both at home and abroad. The Jewish people were incredibly fortunate to benefit from his leadership and passion."
During his presidency, the organization deepened its interactions with Germany, begun shortly after the end of World War II. AJC was well-positioned, as the pioneering Jewish organization engaged in dialogue with Germany, to reach out to President Reagan regarding his controversial visit, in May 1985, to the Bitburg cemetery, where SS officers are buried. Friedman, together with AJC Associate Director William Trosten and AJC International Relations Director Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, shuttled among Bonn, New York, and Washington. On April 29, 1985, an AJC delegation led by Friedman met with President Reagan at the White House.
At AJC's suggestion, President Reagan and Chancellor Kohl added to the visit the gravesite of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, where Reagan spoke about Adenauer's sense of shame for the Holocaust as well as his support for the State of Israel. In addition, the two leaders visited the former concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen, where they spent more time than planned and President Reagan delivered a highly emotional speech.
In July 1987, Friedman was honored by the Federal Republic of Germany for his work to promote greater understanding between American Jews and West Germany. He was awarded the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, "in recognition of the actions and initiatives he had taken as president and representative of the American Jewish Committee to further develop contacts, dialogues, and cooperation, to foster mutual understanding between his country and the Federal Republic of Germany."
Over the decades, Friedman held numerous leadership positions in Jewish organizations, and was committed to Commentary Magazine. He learned Jewish values from his parents Sam and Emma, who founded The Southwest Jewish Chronicle, 1932-1991, which circulated and united the small Jewish communities of the American Southwest.
He served for 18 years (1996-2014) as the founding Chairman of the Board of the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, and as an Emeritus Governor of the Board of Overseers of the Hebrew Union College.
A native of Chicago, Friedman received a BA, Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Oklahoma, an MA from the University of Chicago, and an LLB from Yale Law School, where he was an Editor of the Law Journal. At the end of the Korean War, he served as a Captain in the United States Air Force JAG Corps. He then moved to California to teach at Stanford University Law School. Friedman spent his career at Loeb & Loeb, where he was the managing partner and head of the litigation department, as well as a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.
SOURCE American Jewish Committee