Richard H. Friedman, 56, an attorney active in the Jewish community of Albany, N.Y., died in a swimming accident while on vacation with his family in Puerto Rico, Dec. 30, 2007.

Friedman was a member of the board of Albany’s Temple Israel, a Conservative synagogue, president of its Men’s Club, and former president of Albany’s Jewish day school, Bet Shraga Hebrew Academy.

(In My Heart Editor’s Note: I once lived in Albany, and knew Friedman by sight, as well as all the individuals quoted in this story. My condolences to his family, friends and the extended Albany, New York, Jewish community, a tight-knit group. I invite anyone from Albany who knew Friedman to write a comment to this article or to send us an email, which we will post in Friedman’s honor.)

Friedman was a partner in the firm of Ganz Wolkenbreit & Friedman.

Law firm partner Robert E. Ganz told the Albany Times Union:

“We’re devastated. We’re shocked. He was a critical and wonderful part of our law firm. Clients had deep affection for him. He was the kind of lawyer who saw every problem as a human problem, and, while interested in the law, he was really interested in solving the person’s problem.

“He’s not going to be replaced. We are going to struggle through. It’s a great loss for the legal community, his clients, and his friends at the synagogue.

“He had that ability to communicate and resolve problems that seemed unsolvable. (He was able) to converse with people even though they were on the opposite side … That’s why he was so well liked and well respected in the legal community.”

According to the newspaper, circumstances surrounding Friedman’s drowning were unclear. His sons Harry, 15, and Aaron, 13, were apparently in the water off a beach in Puerto Rico.

“Whether he felt they were in distress or too far out, he went out to get them closer to shore or help them and he drowned,” Ganz told the newspaper. “There could have been some kind of an undertow.”

Friedman’s wife, Gail Kendall, and daughter, Sophie, 20, were also on the trip.

Temple Israel Rabbi Paul Silton told the newspaper Friedman’s death is “a big loss for his family and a big loss for our community, the synagogue, and everyone. He was sensitive, kind, compassionate and always even-tempered. To me, he was like a Godsend. He was very sincere. He took life seriously. He took Judaism seriously.”

Friedman and his family moved to Albany from Boston in 1993. By 1998 Friedman was president of the Hebrew Academy, and a well-known individual in Albany’s Jewish community.

“He really was a good guy, even tempered and nice to everyone even those he disagreed with. I guess you could call him a real gentleman. His death really leaves a large hole in the Temple Israel and probably Hebrew Academy communities,” an Albany acquaintance told In My Heart.