Yaakov Friedman was born in Munkacs 68 years ago, to parents who survived the Holocaust. His father was one of the leaders of the group that rehabilitated Judaism in the region. They trained ritual slaughterers to provide kosher food to the community of about 2,000 people. The Great Synagogue was closed, and the Russians only allowed them to pray in a synagogue at the outskirts of the city, which was also closed two years later. Since then the community has had to hold underground prayers.
He inherited the love of mathematics from his father, excelled in school, and won several mathematics competitions. After graduation, Friedman “miraculously” succeeded in getting accepted to the Moscow University, which was then considered one of the best in the world, a year before the Six-Day War. Immediately after the war, this faculty was closed for Jewish admissions.
During Yaakov’s studies at the university, he joined a family of Chabad members and used to eat and pray in their apartment.
During his studies, he was part of the Russian military reserve, and thus went through an officer’s course during the summer vacation.
When he finished his studies in 1971, he was assigned to a factory that manufactured school labs.
The Friedman family of six began trying to leave the Soviet Union. When finally granted a permission, they had to leave everything behind and leave within two weeks.
When the family finally arrived in Israel, Friedman went to visit a friend in a yeshiva in Kfar Chabad. He was 23 years old, and his friend suggested that he learn something with a Jerusalemite. He remained in the yeshiva for a year. Friedman wrote a letter to the Lubawitscher Rabbi, and the Rabbi’s response surprised him: “Continue in academia and do a doctorate in conjunction with religious studies.” Friedman moved to Bnei Brak, studied and taught half a day at Tel Aviv University, and spent half a day studying at the kollel.
During his doctoral studies, the 1973 October War broke out and Friedman was drafted and sent to Syria with his company. There, too, he demonstrated his technological skills when he assisted in the calculations of the direction of mortars and cannons, in an era when these were not yet computerized.
He completed his doctorate in 1979 and studied theoretical mathematics: geometry of spaces of infinite dimensions.
Friedmann did his doctorate in cooperation with a fellow kibbutz member who worked at the Hebrew University for a doctorate on the same subject. After a year, the two young researchers succeeded in solving an insoluble problem by then and were forced to invent new concepts and tools to do so. The achievement brought them postdoctoral positions: the friend was admitted to the University of Texas, and Friedman went to Los Angeles, to the University of California. Alongside his work at the university, Friedman also advised investors in start-ups. Later, he was involved in establishing several companies himself, and one of these was even sold to IBM.
For eight years he worked at the University of California, where he received offers from the Lev Academic Center in Jerusalem and from several US universities. “I sent the Rebbe a question, and I received an answer from him: Go to Jerusalem and stay there forever!” And ever since, he is there. First as a lecturer, then as department head, deputy rector, rector and vice president of research.
Friedman then began trying to make the connection between mathematics and natural sciences. He explains: “I do not start from theory or proof of law, but rather from a practical problem, I demonstrate its constraints and come to the equation to create the connection between reality and mathematics, and then explain how to solve it. Thus the students learn how to solve problems in the practical world. “
Later, as a result of his tendency toward the practical world, Friedman converted to physics.
In the recent years, Friedman has been dealing with a problem, which he describes as central to the unity of the universe. Friedman, together with his experimental team, decided to conduct the experiment in the Hadron Collider in France. The results of this experiment have already been published in several articles in leading European journals.
What is the application of his theory? “If we understand the effects of acceleration, we can understand the world of particles and the world of astrophysics, because there too a large part of the phenomena is associated with high acceleration. With my theory, I succeeded, together with Prof. Menachem Steiner of the Lev Academic Center, to solve a 150 years-old problem related to Mercury’s orbit.”
“My project also has great potential in the high-tech sector, because technology constantly increases the frequencies, for example in computers,” Friedman says. “Despite the achievements in his experiments so far, Friedman needs more investments and more researchers. “It’s not something that you can receive private funding for. It should be government funding,” he says.” We can reach the forefront of global research that can propel us forward. I am sure that the industry in Israel will be able to translate our results to great achievements and reap the rewards. “