Delivered outside Golders Green Synagogue
Joe was the kind of ba’al ha-bayit with
unswerving communal and personal loyalty, a man who gave everything of himself
with no desire for any recognition; all he wanted in return was that his
beloved community should thrive and be successful.
In 2005, I took the unusual step of reviving
an ancient, yet dormant, tradition – the awarding of a ‘chaver’ title, of
course, to Joe. This turned him into a ‘companion’
of the community, a status he richly deserved.
The decoration took Joe and Yaffa by surprise; we gathered on a Shabbat
morning on some pretext and I presented him with the award. There was, of course, no other way to do
this, as had he been asked in advance, he would never have accepted. I looked back at the certificate we presented
Joe on that occasion, which included the following:
He served as gabbai of our Shul for many years, faithfully worked for the community, whether in gabbayut or acts of chesed, including visiting the sick, accompanying the dead, comforting mourners, discreetly giving charity to the poor, arranging meals of visitors to the community; he strengthened Torah and awe of heaven.
On reflection, to many, many other contributions,
I add these:
Hosting, together with Yaffa, more than 15 years of fantastic Shavuot-night programmes, holding the hand of a youngish rabbi as he found his feet in the community, being constantly available for sage advice and fighting for the Shul in every way.
The latter became quite literal when on one Shabbat
morning, Joe physically wrestled a suspicious visitor to the floor of the
In every respect, Joe was a gibor – a warrior;
how remarkable that he left this world on the Shabbat on which we read the
Haftorah from Shoftim 13 about the birth of the original warrior – Samson. At the time of the ‘chaver’ presentation, I
described the award to Yaffa as a kind of knighthood for Joe, a knighthood for
a gibor, a man who might be described elsewhere as a ‘knight of faith’. Joe was a gibor for his family; a gibor for
his Yiddishkeit, a gibor for his friends, a gibor for his rabbi and a gibor for
his beloved community.
Although I am flooded with memories, I will
offer just three brief vignettes to illustrate the kind of man Joe was.
On the day (1st April 2003) that
my family and I arrived in this community, we moved into a house in Woodstock
Road. I recall that there was an
old-fashioned single-legged telephone table in the hall which I was unable to
remove from the wall where I wanted to erect a bookcase. A man called Joe Friedman, whom I hardly knew,
had mentioned that if I needed anything, I should give him a call, so I
did. Within five minutes, he was round
at the house, holding a crowbar, with which he first ripped the table from the
wall and then completely demolished it.
My wife reminded me that his pockets were also stuffed with sweets for
A few years later, I was in the process of
buying a family car, something I’d mentioned to Joe. He was absolutely insistent that he accompanied
me, as he was sure that I would get ripped off if I went on my own. He test-drove the car, negotiated a good deal
with the garage and for a few days, even covered a considerable shortfall.
And who could forget Joe’s appearance on Yom
Kippur? On several occasions, my wife remarked
that with his white tallit and kittel complementing his white hair and shining
face, Joe looked like an angel. Whether
leading the davening, reading Maftir Yonah or concentrating on his own
tefillah, he presented a memorable and inspirational vision.
Joe’s given name was actually Shmuel Yosef,
although no-one ever called him that – he was always known as Joe, Joseph or to
It is written about the great prophet, the original
והנער שמואל משרת את ה
The lad Shmuel served God… (I Shmuel 3:1)
This verse sums up our ‘Shmuel’ – he regarded himself
as just a lad, an ordinary person, although, of course, he was not. And, quite simply, Joe ‘served God’.
At the start of Shemot, we learn about the
transition of generations as the period of the Egyptian slavery begins.
וימת יוסף וכל אחיו וכל הדור ההוא
And Yosef died along with all his brothers and all of that generation. (Shemot 1:6)
This depiction hits a nerve for us. Our ‘Yosef’ was of a type and from an era that
will not be seen again. Joe’s passion, generosity
of spirit and deep commitment came from a generation that passes with him.
Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has asked me
to include the following personal tribute to Joe:
I remember Joe Friedman as a warm, friendly, deeply committed member of the Golders Green Synagogue, loyal to Judaism, the Jewish people and the state of Israel. He was always quiet and modest in manner, but always felt a sense of responsibility and always had a strong conscience and a determination to do the right and menschlich deed. It was a privilege to know him, and Elaine and I will miss him deeply. Our deepest condolences go to his loving wife Yaffa, his lovely children, Gaby, Ben, Annette, and Dana and the other members of his family. He was a blessing in life, and may his memory continue to inspire us.
To Yaffa, who stood by Joe’s side, supporting
him in every endeavour, we say: your loss is huge and we try to share it and
cry with you; we admire your fortitude and love.
Gaby, Ben, Dana and Annette, be comforted in
the knowledge that your father Joe was a true gibor – a warrior who is a
blessing to you and to all of us, an inspirational man whom I and no-one in our
community will ever forget.
To Judith and Michael, we mourn with you the
loss of a remarkable brother.
I conclude with the words of a congregant who
was not able to attend today’s funeral, as he has summed up all our feelings so
Please let Joe’s family know how fond all people were of him, and quite literally, how loved he was by all who met him. He was truly a most wonderful and charming man. His passing is a terrible loss to the community.
בלע המות לנצח ומחה ה אלקים דמעה מעל כל פנים
He will swallow up death forever and the Lord God will wipe away tears from
upon all faces... (Yeshayahu 25:8)
יהי זכרו ברוך
May his memory be for a blessing.