fbpx

Andrew Friedman stands by friends — and principles

On a Sunday evening this past July, attorney and Congregation Bais Naftoli President Andrew Friedman stopped by Pat’s Restaurant in Pico-Robertson, ordered take-out food and made his way over to former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca’s house. There, Friedman and his wife, Chanie, had dinner with Baca and his wife, Carol Chiang, using paper plates.
[additional-authors]
October 21, 2016

On a Sunday evening this past July, attorney and Congregation Bais Naftoli President Andrew Friedman stopped by Pat’s Restaurant in Pico-Robertson, ordered take-out food and made his way over to former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca’s house. There, Friedman and his wife, Chanie, had dinner with Baca and his wife, Carol Chiang, using paper plates. 

The next day, Baca — who in February pleaded guilty to obstructing an FBI investigation into sheriff’s department corruption in exchange for a lesser prison sentence — would be in U.S. District Court, where a judge would throw out the plea agreement as too lenient.

That Sunday evening was but one example of Friedman’s community involvement — and sense of loyalty. A lawyer and congregational co-founder, he’s made it a point to give back to those he believes have given to the Jewish community, even if it means taking unpopular positions in the process. 

Born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1947 to Holocaust survivor parents, Friedman was 10 years old when his family left Hungary after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. They made their way on foot to Austria and then immigrated to the United States before eventually settling in Los Angeles. 

As a teenager, Friedman attended an East Coast yeshiva for two years before enrolling at Fairfax High School, where he graduated in 1964. In 1968, he graduated from UCLA with a degree in political science. He then earned a law degree from UCLA in 1971. 

He said he always wanted to be a lawyer. Friedman’s law practice specializes in cases involving personal injury, automobile and motorcycle accidents and divorce.

On a recent weekday, a young couple — the man wearing a baseball cap and T-shirt, the woman fitted with a neck brace — were seated on the sofa in the waiting room of Friedman’s office on La Brea Avenue, which is decorated with framed photographs of Friedman with various elected officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, California Gov. Jerry Brown, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), former President Ronald Reagan, Vice President Joe Biden and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

“This is how I make my living. I have clients who have accidents and they come to me,” said Friedman, 69, dressed in a gray jacket, gray slacks and a white button-down shirt and no tie.

His heart, however, appears to be in politics. During the 1990s, he was involved with Richard Riordan’s Los Angeles mayoral campaign. And when Riordan ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2002, Friedman changed his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican so he could vote for Riordan in the primary.

Friedman has worked on political campaigns for various officials, including Baca, and he currently serves on Los Angeles County’s Local Government Services commission, an appointed position by the Board of Supervisors.

This past May, Congregation Bais Naftoli honored Baca, despite the federal corruption charges against him. Friedman has stood by Baca, whom he said was a friend to the Jewish community while sheriff. Friedman said Baca was involved in the rescue of an observant man in the mountains, he never missed a Bais Naftoli fundraiser, he was a vocal supporter of Israel — and that the Torah requires hakoras hatov (showing gratitude). 

“Baca has done more than any other law enforcement officer … to help the Jewish community,” Friedman said. “To recognize his good deeds for the Jewish community, I’m still proud of the fact we honored him.”

Friedman, once a Los Angeles city fire commissioner during Villaraigosa’s tenure as mayor, recalled receiving a recent phone call from Villaraigosa during which the former mayor questioned how Friedman could support Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, given the candidate’s statements about Hispanics. 

Friedman said his backing of Trump is connected to his support for Israel.

“Within the Jewish community, there’s two trains of thought,” Friedman said. “One is the AIPAC one, which believes, as I do, that the democratically elected government of Israel must be supported by American Jews — period. The Israelis should determine Israeli policy and not American Jews. There’s the other one — I think they call them J Street — theirs is that they don’t really care what the current government’s position is. They believe settlements are illegal — if Israel would give up on settlements, there would be peace. The influence on Hillary [Clinton] is from that wing of the Jewish community. The influence of Trump is from the AIPAC point of view. That’s where I stand. That’s why I am supporting Trump. I am convinced he would be better for the security of the State of Israel.”

When not working or volunteering, Friedman leads a seemingly ordinary, Orthodox life. He has 17 grandchildren, worships at Bais Naftoli twice a day and enjoys going to concerts with his wife. 

His office — in the Friedman Law Building — is tucked among La Brea Avenue’s trendy restaurants, chic retail stores and Orthodox kollelim (learning centers), a short walk from the synagogue he founded more than 20 years ago with his father, Alex. The shul is named after Friedman’s uncle, Naftoli, who was also a Holocaust survivor and who lived with Friedman’s family until his death in 1987.

Not all of Bais Naftoli’s approximately 100 member-units pay dues, however, and Friedman says he donates between $25,000 and $50,000 annually to the shul.

He also continues to be connected to the Hungarian community locally — many of his legal clients are Hungarian — and abroad. Of particular interest to him is the continued threat of anti-Semitism in his native country.

“I’m very much involved in the Jewish struggle in Hungary, which most people don’t understand because they don’t understand Hungary,” he said.

Despite his many activities, Friedman refuses to be pulled into today’s technology. He dictates his emails to his assistant, Jennifer Lacona, instead of working from a computer. 

“I do not use a computer — period,” he said.

His old-fashioned habits aside, Friedman is dependable and accessible, Lacona said. 

“He’s a man of his word,” she said. “He’s always there. His door is always open.”

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

Beauty Without Borders

I was amused by this scene of an elderly, ultra-Orthodox couple enjoying a coffee while a sensual French song came on. Do they have any idea what this song is about? I wondered.

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.