For the shloshim of my father, Rabbi Yakov Moshe HaKohen Friedman

What everyone remembers most about my father was the twinkle in his eye, the radiant smile on his face and the way he always made you feel special, particularly when he was doing you a favor. It is simply inconceivable to us that we will not feel the warmth of that smile again and we are envious of the malachei hashares, the heavenly angels, who surely basked in that smile as they escorted his pure neshama on its passage towards Gan Eden.

Whenever he would approach the Rebbe he did so with a big smile. He would say the Rebbe sees enough sadness. Indeed, the Rebbe once remarked to my father: If only everyone would approach with such a cheerful and radiant face.!

My father, Rabbi Yaakov Moshe HaKohen Friedman, hk"m, was one of the unsung heroes of our generation. His outward appearance was that of a gentle chassid, the embodiment of eidelkeit, dignity and modesty, a noted baal chesed with a pleasant word for everyone he met. Under that mild exterior, however, was a reservoir of monumental strength that enabled him to help countless of his fellow Jews during and after the war in Europe.

While still a teenager, he and his family were exiled to a frozen Siberian labor camp and my father worked a double shift in order that his father, Rabbi Meir Yisroel Isser, "the Krynitzer Rav" would not have to work on Shabbat. During their stay in Tajikstan, when hunger was rampant, my father once walked thirty miles in tattered shoes, fighting off attacks by wild dogs, in order to bring food and blankets to a starving widow and her seven children.

After the war, my father was asked to postpone his own departure for the United States and remain in Prague, Czechoslovakia, to work with the rescue agencies and the noted Dr. Jacob Griffel. The thousands of war-weary and battered Jewish refugees streaming into Czechoslovakia needed help in order to secure exit visas to the United States, Canada, South America and Israel. After making arrangements for the safe transport, to America, of his father, sister and brother, my father remained in Prague with my mother and their three small children, and threw himself into this vital rescue operation.

This was a task fraught with danger since it required creative documentation, transportation across heavily guarded borders and paying off of various state and government Communist officials. My father’s innate friendliness, helped him to establish important contacts in high places and he was able to personally provide papers and passports for thousands of Jews including the previous Skverer, Vizhnitzer and other Rebbes.

One of his many responsibilities was locating the myriads of Jewish children who were living in gentile homes, left there by their fleeing parents who never came back. In one ambitious and clandestine operation, he transferred an entire orphanage of 500 Jewish children from Bytom, Poland, into Vienna, from where they eventually found safety in Eretz Yisroel.

For these and other acts of heroism and rescue, my father was twice arrested in Prague and brutally interrogated by the Communists. His family worked tirelessly to raise money for his release and with the blessings of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, he was freed from prison and was finally able to obtain exit papers for himself and his family.

Shortly after their arrival in the United States in 1950 my father began working for the Central Lubavitcher Yeshiva where he remained for over 40 years. Although parnoso (earning a living) was a constant struggle, the focus of his life remained dedicated to helping others. He even utilized his daily visit to the bank on behalf of the Yeshiva as an opportunity to help a fellow in need. Anyone who required a small loan, a check cashed or a signature guaranteed, formed a line to see my father. Rabbi Friedman’s "line" was oftentimes longer than the bank tellers’ and his word was gold.

In his personal life, he continued to display a legendary respect and selfless dedication to his own father, visiting him every day in Borough Park, always standing up in his presence and attending to his every need. He was the epitome of the loving husband and father, treating my mother (ad me'ah v'esrim) with gentle respect and shielding her whenever possible from unpleasant news or sad tidings.

My father established a thriving neighborhood shtiebel which also became a bastion for gemilat chassadim, acts of kindness. People in need knew they could always find him there and he rarely left the shul without having helped someone. Even at home, during the precious time he spent with his family, he would continue to graciously receive visitors. When we asked why he didn’t have them come at a more convenient time, he would say ah mitzvah kimt nisht un gring — "a mitzvah does not come easily."

My father was well known for his mellifluous voice as he read from the Torah or led the congregation in davening and for his wondrous zemirot around the Shabbat table, accompanied by his six sons and two daughters. Rebbetzin Chana, the Rebbe’s mother, of blessed memory, with whom we shared a common backyard (at 1414-18 President Street), once remarked to the Rebbe of how she enjoys hearing "Reb Yankel" sing zemirot with his children.

The legacy of those zemirot lives on in the lives of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who continue to sing them around their own Shabbat tables in the dozens of communities around the U.S and Israel where they devote their lives to the shlichus of the Rebbe.


He is survived by his wife, my mother, tzu langeh, gezunte, freiliche yaren, Miriam shtichye. His sons: Rabbi Manis Friedman, S. Paul, MN; Rabbi Benzion Friedman, Overland Park, KS; Rabbi Eliyahu Friedman, Tzfas, Israel; Rabbis Shlomo, Yossi and Avraham Friedman, Brooklyn, New York. Daughters Fay Kranz Green, Boca Raton, FL; and Ita Marcus, Los Alamitos, CA.


The lyrics to an old Yiddish song allude to a "paper bridge" that we will cross on our way to the Land of Israel when Moshiach comes. The paper is the pages of Torah that we have studied, the Chumashim, the Gemaros, the Tehillims, etc. that will form the bridge to World to Come. My father’s lifelong Gemilas Chassadim also revolved around "paper" — from the passports to save lives in Europe to the thousands of checks he cashed for people in this country. Together with the countless hours he spent davening and learning, my father’s "paper trail" will surely help form the bridge that will take us to the era when "those who rest in the dust shall wake and rejoice" and when we are once again reunited with our loved ones in the perfect world of Moshiach.

Note: A new gemach, a free loan fund, has been started by the family in order to continue my father’s lifelong chessed. Anyone wishing to contribute to the fund or send personal reminiscences should send them to: Keren Yaakov Moshe, 701 Montgomery Street, Brooklyn, New York 11213. email: [email protected]lubavitch.com.