Last July, Montgomery County Council member Andrew Friedson introduced a resolution to address and combat antisemitism in the district. In November, it passed unanimously in November.
The job is personal to the 37-year-old Friedson, who represents District 1. The Bethesda resident has lived in District 1 his entire life and is a member of Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac.
You were the youngest ever Montgomery County Council member. What role does that superlative play in your career?
Having the perspective of younger people who increasingly struggle to be able to afford to live here, to rent, to buy homes, to get jobs, to start families and careers — I think that perspective is really important to have as part of the conversation.
For years and decades, conversations have been dominated at the county level by older, longer-term residents, many of which don’t represent the entire community, and I think our council represents younger perspectives, represents different socioeconomic perspectives, represents different racial and demographic perspectives. And I think that’s important. I think you need as diverse a breadth of perspectives as possible.
What are the most prominent issues that you’re focusing on at the moment?
I focus a lot on housing, housing affordability and economic issues, providing job opportunities for people and making sure that Montgomery County is affordable to people who move here, who stay here.
You’re a lifelong resident of District 1. What was your Jewish upbringing like in the area, and what are your connections to the Jewish community now?
I belong to a synagogue. I went to Jewish preschool. My mom was very involved in Sisterhood at our synagogue. So from a young age, I went with my mom on Saturday mornings and set up onegs at our synagogue.
As an adult, I’m very active in Jewish Federation and Jewish social service organizations. I’m chair of the inaugural [Jewish] Community Day at Nationals Park; I’m the co-chair of the Young Leadership Gala for the Jewish Federation. I sponsored a community survey for [the Jewish] Federation to look at issues facing the Jewish community in the region. I also served on the [board of the] Jewish Council for Public Affairs.
How has your Jewish identity shaped your time as a county council member?
My focus on housing is largely rooted in the tent that’s open on all sides, the tradition of believing in a community that welcomes the stranger and in ensuring that we have a community that is open to new families and new residents. That’s part of the challenge in issues related to housing, which certainly is, in many ways, a Jewish value. I focus a lot on strong education, access to transportation for everybody in our community, which are deeply Jewish values.
As I’ve gotten older, that Jewish value of tikkun olam, repairing the world, is also combined with the Jewish belief that if you save a person, you save the world. And in that sense, that value is very much tied to repairing the world in a much more local sense.
Why is it important to address antisemitism on the local level?
Addressing it at the local level is critical, just like addressing it at the national level, in every form, every circumstance and situation. I’m on my way to a school right now to talk about the increase in antisemitism in schools, and to address specific incidents at this particular school.
Unfortunately, it’s one of far too many conversations that I have been having in far too many schools, meeting with teachers and principals and parents and students to discuss the alarming rise in antisemitic incidents that are happening throughout our community, and making sure that the response to these issues meets the seriousness of the antisemitism that’s occurring.
What has been one of your greatest accomplishments of your political career so far?
I spearheaded an effort to launch a $100 million housing production fund, which dramatically increases our ability to create affordable housing in Montgomery County, and it’s not enough to meet the need, but it’s one of the largest investments in our county. ■