Rabbi Friedman led Judea Reform Congregation for more than 30 years until he retired in 2015. He was born in Kansas City, and he studied at the Hebrew Union College — Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem and Cincinnati, where he was ordained in 1976 and from where he received an honorary doctorate. After four years at Emanuel Congregation in Chicago, he came to North Carolina to serve Judea Reform.
He has received the Martin Luther King Jr. Keeper of the Dream Award, the Durham Better Human Relations Award, and the Elna Spaulding Medal for Social Justice for his work in the community.
In 1994, Rabbi Friedman was a Charles Merrill Fellow at Harvard University, and in 2009, Rabbi Friedman was honored to receive the Daniel Jeremy Silver Fellowship also at Harvard. Rabbi Friedman has served as the president of Durham Congregations in Action and the Mid-Atlantic Association of Reform Rabbis. He has also served as chair of the Interreligious Affairs Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. In 2011, he co-authored The Trial of the Talmud: 1240 and has written articles for The Journal of Reform Judaism, Brotherhood Magazine, Judaism, Compass, and other publications. For the 2014-2015 academic year, Rabbi Friedman will served as Marcus Center Director’s Fellow at the American Jewish Archives of the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. He is working on a project concerning Kantian philosophy and the practice of early Reform Judaism in America.
Rabbi Friedman is a popular speaker for many civic and religious groups.
His wife, Nan, is a physician. Nan and John have two children, Joshua and Abigail.