Five Towns Residents Stand Behind Friedman As He Faces Confirmation Hearings

LAWRENCE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — President Donald Trump’s nominee for ambassador to Israel David Friedman hails from the Five Towns, where some residents watched his confirmation hearing Thursday.

Students at a Lawrence yeshiva were glued to their televisions watching a man they consider a hometown hero, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.

“It’s very inspiring to both myself and students here and the community at large. It shows that you really can make a difference,” said 12th grader Josef Silverstein.

Support there was brimming over for Friedman.

“He’s fantastic, he is very smart, very passionate about Israel, which means he wants peace. Because anyone that loves Israel and loves America wants peace,” said rabbi Zev Friedman, headmaster of Rambam Mesivta High School.

Friedman, a bankruptcy attorney who lives in Woodsburgh, grew up in North Woodmere, where his father was a prominent rabbi. Now a member of an Orthodox temple in Cedarhurst, he speaks fluent Hebrew.

Fellow Five Towns resident and attorney Ben Brafman called his longtime friend an exceptional pick.

“He’s an intellectually honest man. He understands conditions on the ground better than most Americans, and he’s passionate about seeing that Israel gets a fair shake,” he said.

His lack of diplomatic experience is a plus, Brafman said.

“I think maybe he brings a refreshing approach to diplomacy,” he said.

However, Friedman’s views and rhetoric have divided the Jewish community, even on home turf.

“I have no respect for someone who calls people with whom he disagrees the equivalent of concentration camp guards,” said former congressman Rep. Steve Israel. “For a gentleman who wants to be America’s diplomat to Israel, he’s going to have to learn some diplomacy.”

“I feel that he’s closed minded, and I feel that he is more interested in being aggressive and attacking than being a listener,” said Richard Lasky, former president of a reform Jewish synagogue.

“The inflammatory rhetoric that accompanied the presidential campaign is entirely over,” Friendman said during his confirmation hearing.

Supporters welcomed Thursday’s apology.

“He apologized, he didn’t get around it in any way, he said he messed up,” one student said.

If confirmed, the full Senate will vote on Friedman’s appointment after a break next week.

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