In every generation, we can find support beams of civilization who maintain and fortify constancy, consistency, and, above all else, truth. Without these extraordinary human beings, society would come crashing down.
Helen Freedman, Co-Executive Director of Americans for a Safe Israel, who passed away on Wednesday, August 12, was one such individual.
I met Helen at one of the many rallies I organized to protest the terrible Oslo Accords, from their signing on September 13, 1993, until the first Benjamin Netanyahu election victory in May of 1996. I continued to do the Concert in Central Park, started in 1994 as a protest against the Oslo Accords, at which Helen spoke any year she was in Manhattan and not on her highly successful chizuk missions to Israel. Helen continued to fight for the Land of Israel and the Jewish People on the streets of New York from 1995 until her passing. She also did 25 years of chizuk trips to Israel, each remarkable in its own right.
She devoted her life unselfishly, unflinchingly, and wholeheartedly to the Jewish People. It is always truly amazing how much one person can do to change the world. She was an exceptional human being.
I worked closely with her mentor, Herb Zweibon, of blessed memory, who founded AFSI in 1970 and whom she admired and fittingly carried on his legacy. I went to Israel with Herb Zweibon on a number of occasions. I vividly remember going to Israel in August 1990 with Herb Zweibon when he was accompanied by the great philanthropist Dr. Irving Moskowitz and great Zionist Jack Friedler. The purpose of the mission was to fight for the $10 billion loan guarantees to save Russian Jewry and was being held up by Secretary of State James Baker. Herb Zweibon passed away at age 84 in 2011.
Helen had already re-energized and lifted AFSI to great heights. She was a warrior. No one in America worked harder than Helen Freedman to prevent the Gush Katif/Gaza Expulsion of 10,000 Jews from 21 communities in August of 2005. We all learned valuable lessons, but it was not without trying. It should never have happened and led to the Hamas takeover of Gaza, missile attacks against Israel every day up to the present, and four wars. It goes down as one of the all-time most tragic blunders in Jewish history. Helen gave it every ounce of her being. She is a true heroine.
She successfully carried out AFSI’s platform, which promulgates Israel’s historical, religious, and legal rights to the land won in the 1967 Six-Day War, and she has consistently argued that a strong territorially defensible Israel is essential to US security interests in the region and that “Land for Peace” is a delusional policy.
In January of 2017, Helen joined me on our Governor Mike Huckabee mission to Israel to save Amona. Helen had been working feverishly to prevent Amona from going the way of Yamit and Gush Katif. Amona, which overlooked Ofra in the Binyamin region of Israel, was the site of strong protests in 2006. The Israeli Supreme Court called for its demolition. Governor Huckabee made sure to join us on the solidarity visit despite being quite ill from food poisoning. Despite our efforts, Amona was destroyed in February of 2017. On the same trip, we visited the Mayor of Jerusalem at the time, Nir Barkat. Helen Freedman asked the most important question of the group. She wanted to know why illegal Arab building was taking place in Jerusalem. Mayor Barkat answered that there were 20,000 illegal Arab buildings in Jerusalem and he was working on the problem.
Helen Freedman was known for having written more letters to the editor than anyone on this planet. She had a better command of the English language than most of the writers who worked full time for the various New York newspapers. Before she retired in 1995, she had been an English teacher at Lawrence High School. Below, I excerpt one of her numerous letters to the New York Post.
“The Post’s January 9 “fast take” on “How Trump Can Undo Kerry’s Jerusalem Damage” is right on the money. Eugene Kontorovich lists five ways of negating Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemns Israel for just about everything – and Kerry’s speech, which labels Israel the great ‘occupier.’”
She concludes, “My suggestion is that the US remove all funding from the UN and encourage it to leave NYC. It would be great to have that beautiful waterfront property returned to New Yorkers.”
She organized many highly visible protests, including the one against the Metropolitan Opera for featuring the anti-Semitic “Death of Klinghoffer” in 2014, which glorified the barbaric murder of wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer by the PLO on the Achille Lauro in 1985.
In 2019, she organized a protest against The New York Times for featuring an anti-Semitic cartoon in their international edition. The cartoon showed a black-kipah-wearing President Trump with a leash attached to Prime Minister Netanyahu as a guide dog (a dachshund) wearing a Star of David as a collar. The New York Times was forced to apologize for using blatant anti-Semitic tropes.
Consul General of New York Dani Dayan wrote, “Deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Helen Freedman, the Co-Executive Director of AFSI. Helen was a staunch supporter of Medinath Israel and Eretz Israel, a proud Zionist, and lovely human being. She will be missed.”
Her daughter, Judy Kalish, will, G-d willing, continue in her mother’s footsteps to maintain a strong and secure State of Israel and the Jewish People.
Helen Freedman’s memory should be a blessing.
Joseph M. Frager is a physician and lifelong activist.