Bitter feud between politically-connected Satmar brothers devolves into public legal contest

Joel and Abraham Friedman, both prominent community liaisons and chaplains to law enforcement, are now in court trading accusations of “defamation” and “jealousy”

Abraham (left) and Joel Friedman. Credit: New Jersey State Police, Bergen County Sheriff's Office

Feb 27, 2024 2:50 PM


A spiteful mudslinging contest has spilled into public view between two prominent Satmar activist brothers, both of whom have close ties to political figures and community leaders, over accusations of social media impersonation, defamation, and breach of a prior settlement over the same dispute.

In a recent lawsuit, Joel Friedman accused his brother Abraham, or “Abe,” of attempting to harm him personally and professionally by impersonating him on Twitter, now X, back in 2019, and posting messages meant to smear him with a broad range of improprieties and criminal misdeeds. The suit alleges that Abraham also reneged on a $300,000 settlement payment that the brothers agreed to after Joel filed an initial complaint in 2020.

Both brothers serve as chaplains for various law enforcement agencies in the New York metropolitan area, and are frequently seen at events with political figures, members of law enforcement, and Orthodox Jewish community leaders. In February, New York City Mayor Eric Adams attended the bar mitzvah of Joel Friedman’s son, according to several Haredi news outlets. 

Tweets by @YoelFriedman5, allegedly posted by Abe Friedman

Dov Medinets, Abraham’s attorney, called Joel’s complaint “libelous” and said that disagreements between the brothers should only be addressed in rabbinical court, and that multiple rabbis have issued summonses for Joel to appear.

“It is incredibly unfortunate that Joel, to this point, has refused to engage with a beis din on this, as he is expected to do under Jewish law,” Medinets told Shtetl, referring to a traditional rabbinical court. Medinets didn’t describe the brothers’ disagreements in detail, but said “they came from a sense of grievance and entitlement from one brother who is envious of the position of his sibling within the Satmar community.”

The dispute goes back at least to 2019, when an anonymous Twitter user under the name @Yoelfriedman5 began posting Tweets suggesting that Joel Friedman was engaged in various fraudulent business activities, offering access to political figures “for the right price,” and “can take care” of entanglements with law enforcement. The latest suit now claims that the person operating the account was Joel’s brother Abraham.

Post on X by the 94th Precinct of the NYPD showing photos of New York City Mayor Eric Adams at the bar mitzvah of Joel Friedman’s son

In legal filings beginning in 2019, Joel called the anonymous posts false and harmful to his professional and personal relationships, and tried to force Twitter to disclose the user’s identity. Twitter refused to do so despite multiple court subpoenas. According to Joel’s latest filings, a private investigator was finally able to “unmask” the Twitter user’s identity through IP addresses and a subpoena to Yahoo, which revealed it to be Joel’s brother Abraham.

The latest complaint says that Joel’s reputation as a chaplain and community liaison is central to his work, and “any suggestion of impropriety undermines those relationships.”

According to the complaint, Joel first attempted to have a mutual friend mediate the dispute between the two. It also claims that Abraham confessed to his misconduct, which, Joel says, was motivated by “jealousy.” Still, the suit alleges, rather than settle, Abraham threatened to blackmail Joel, making reference to “surveillance with girls at the hotel” and “stuff that’s going to burn him up in public and no one can afford this now.”

Ultimately, the brothers reached a settlement agreement in December 2020, which required Abraham to pay Joel $300,000 in a series of payments. According to the latest complaint, Abraham paid Joel a total of $125,000, and then stopped paying.

Abe Friedman, pictured with members of the New Jersey State Police. Credit: NJSP/Facebook

Israel Appel, a lawyer representing Joel, told Shtetl that he wouldn’t argue the case in the “court of public opinion.” “Our focus remains on seeking a fair and impartial resolution in the appropriate forum where the truth will prevail,” he said.

Joel and Abe are both sons of the late Mordechai Friedman, who worked as a police chaplain, according to Haredi news media. Both sons followed in Mordechai’s footsteps, pursuing roles in which they are tasked with improving public safety and relations between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve. They also both work in real estate. 

Joel, a clergy liaison for the New York Police Department, also hosted Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso and other local political and law enforcement leaders at his son’s bar mitzvah in February, in addition to Adams. Someone named Joel Friedman has already donated to the mayor’s 2025 reelection campaign.

Abe is just as politically connected, with recent videos and photos showing him with New York Governor Kathy Hochul and other politicians. He is also pictured in photos with former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and he advised Adams when he was a state senator. In 2016, the FBI gave Abe the “Director’s Community Leadership Award” for outstanding community leaders.

Abe was also featured last year in Blue Magazine, an outlet geared towards members of law enforcement, where he offered his “proudest accomplishment” as having “saved 241 individuals from committing suicide over the past 20 years.”

Correction: an earlier version of this article misstated the month of Joel Friedman’s son’s bar mitzvah, which was attended by New York City Mayor Eric Adams and other political and law enforcement figures. The bar mitzvah was in February, not January.