Rabbi Manis Friedman is an influential Jewish speaker, philosopher, and author. Friedman is a member of the Chabad-Lubavitch school of Hasidic Judaism. Friedman is the founder of Bais Chana Women International in 1971, a non-profit organization focused on Jewish women’s education. The organization offers various retreats and programs internationally. Beyond Bais Chana, Friedman has been an important figure in Hasidic Jewish education in many arenas; he hosted his own show, “Torah Forum,” in addition to hosting his own podcasts and lecture series. He is the author of Doesn’t Anyone Blush Anymore?, a novel which explores reclaiming sexuality and intimacy from a Jewish perspective. Indeed, much of Rabbi Friedman’s teachings and online resources focus on relationships, marriage, and counseling.
Rabbi Manis Friedman is a frequent speaker at various institutions, including multiple Chabad centers around the country and the National Jewish Retreat. He has also recently published a new novel, The Joy of Intimacy: A Soulful Guide to Love, Sexuality and Marriage. Rabbi Friedman maintains both active Twitter and Facebook accounts. Furthermore, Friedman continually updates his blog and podcast.
Of the resources provided online and in print, Rabbi Manis Friedman rarely addresses Islam directly. In instances when he has mentioned Islam, however, it is within the context of the Messianic era and the coming of the Messiah, and how, precisely, the Jewish people will interact with people of other faiths, including both Christianity and Islam. In an episode from his show “Torah Forum” entitled “A Peaceful Resolution to the Israeli/Arab Conflict,” Rabbi Friedman draws upon fundamental Jewish texts in discussing the relationship between God, the Jewish People, and people of differing faiths. Quoting the Midrash, he describes a worldwide conflict that will be waged by the descendants of Ishmael, from which he concludes that this conflict to come will be religious in nature and will present a moral confusion. Furthermore, he states that Islam, along with all faiths and peoples, will have to undergo a period a self-analysis.
Similarly, at a talk Rabbi Friedman gave at the 12th annual National Jewish Retreat, in discussing the relationship between the Holocaust and Christianity, he drew a parallel between the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 and Islam. Friedman stated: “9/11 will cause Muslims to clean up their act, realize they’re all ‘farblunget’ [A word of Yiddish origin meaning astray or wandering].” While such statements are not overtly Islamophobic in nature, albeit worded somewhat insensitively vis-a-vis Islam, they provide a background of understanding for Rabbi Friedman’s thoughts regarding the Middle East, Muslims, and the Arab People. This background, thus, provides context for his statement advocating for genocide of Arab people.
In a “Ask the Rabbi” feature of Moment Magazine that asked “How should Jews treat their Arab neighbors?”, Rabbi Friedman responded, “The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle)...I don’t believe in Western morality. Living by Torah values will make us a light unto the nations who suffer defeat because of a disastrous morality of human invention.”
Rabbi Friedman later apologized for these remarks, expressing that his words had been misrepresentative and that he does believe that, “any neighbor of the Jewish people should be treated, as the Torah commands us, with respect and compassion.”