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Jewish Organizational Leaders Remember the Extraordinary Life & Impactful Legacy of Sen. Joe Lieberman

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Jewish Organizational Leaders Remember the Extraordinary Life & Impactful Legacy of Sen. Joe Lieberman

Edited by:  Fern Sidman

Joseph I. Lieberman, a towering figure in American politics and the first Jewish candidate on a major-party presidential ticket, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 82, as was reported by the New York Times.  His legacy as Connecticut’s four-term United States senator and his significant role as Vice President Al Gore’s Democratic running mate in the contentious 2000 presidential election remain indelible marks on the nation’s political landscape.

Lieberman’s family confirmed that his passing was due to complications from a fall at his home in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, New York. Despite efforts to save him, Lieberman succumbed to his injuries at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in Upper Manhattan.

At the zenith of his political career, Lieberman emerged as a voice of morality and integrity within the Democratic Party. He made history as the first major Democrat to publicly rebuke President Bill Clinton for his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, according to the information provided in the NYT report. This principled stance solidified Lieberman’s reputation as a man of conscience and paved the way for his selection as Al Gore’s running mate at the Democratic National Convention in August 2000.

The Gore-Lieberman ticket campaigned on themes of integrity and faith, seeking to distance themselves from the scandals that plagued the Clinton administration, the NYT report noted. Lieberman’s advocacy for bringing religion and faith into public life resonated with many Americans, reflecting his deeply held convictions and commitment to moral leadership.

In the fiercely contested 2000 presidential election, the Gore-Lieberman team secured a narrow plurality of the popular vote, garnering half a million more votes than their Republican counterparts, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, as was indicated in the NYT report. However, the Electoral College outcome remained uncertain, plunging the nation into an intense legal battle that would ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.

Despite the outcome of the election, Lieberman’s impact on American politics transcends electoral victories and defeats. Throughout his four terms in the Senate, he remained a steadfast advocate for bipartisan cooperation and principled leadership, the NYT report said. His legacy as a trailblazer for Jewish representation in national politics and his unwavering commitment to upholding moral values continue to inspire generations of leaders and citizens alike.

In the immediate aftermath of Lieberman’s passing, a litany of Jewish organizations expressed their sympathy and condolences through statements sent to the media.

The Republican Jewish Coalition Chairman Senator Norm Coleman said in a statement,  “Joe Lieberman was a true mensch and a great American. It was a pleasure and an honor to work with him in the Senate. He built a successful political career while staying true to what he felt was right. Time and again, Senator Lieberman put principle over politics. He was a shining example of all that’s good and decent about public service. And he was a committed and proud Jew who served his country with distinction.”

Coleman added that, “Joe Lieberman was called the last of the Scoop Jackson Democrats. We miss those Democrats who took the defense of liberty seriously, and who worked with their colleagues across the aisle to keep America – and our ally Israel – safe. I am proud to have known Joe and the Republican Jewish Coalition was proud to work with him over the years. We will miss his friendship, his leadership, and the integrity he demonstrated during more than two decades in the Senate. May his memory be a blessing.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said, “It is with profound sadness that the World Jewish Congress mourns the loss of former Senator Joseph Lieberman, a trailblazer for Jewish public servants in the United States who wore his faith on his sleeve. Senator Lieberman’s career was a beacon of dedication to public service, characterized by his deep commitment to Jewish principles, and an unwavering support for the fight against anti-Semitism.

Lauder added: “I had the privilege of knowing Senator Lieberman personally. While we might not have agreed on every issue, his integrity, and devotion to the Jewish community and to strengthening Israel-U.S. relations were always a constant. Senator Liberman was a true mensch, whose legacy of leadership and service will continue to inspire future generations. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and all who were touched by his remarkable life. May his memory be a blessing.”

Also in reaction to Lieberman’s passing, the CEO of the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement, Sacha Roytman said, “I join the world in mourning Senator Lieberman’s passing. I got to know Joe during his time as a member of the CAM Advisory Board, a role to which he brought his passion for the safety and well-being of Jews around the world, and I will forever be thankful for that opportunity. The Jewish people will particularly feel his loss because of his iconic life and work. He stood up for the cause of freedom around the world and had a profound impact on each and every one of us. Even in death, Joe’s legacy will continue to serve as an inspiration for me and the entire CAM team. Our deepest condolences go out to Joe’s beloved wife Hadassah, his children, and the entire Lieberman family.”

William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, issued the following statement: “I first met Joe Lieberman sitting around a small family Passover seder table in Washington in 1989, during his first year as a Senator. Since that time, he has been a mentor and friend who was always willing and able to provide counsel – on issues public and private. His iconic presence in American Jewish life is forever enshrined by his being the first Jew to be on a major party Presidential ticket – a role that inspired a generation of young American Jews to follow his lead by seeking careers in public service. Senator Lieberman’s prescient warnings and efforts to avert a nuclear Iran will also be his lasting legacy. May Hadassah and his entire family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion, and may his memory forever be for blessings.”

In a statement issued by Agudath Israel of America concerning the passing of Senator Lieberman, they said that Lieberman was “ a friend of Agudath Israel and the Orthodox Jewish community, participating in Agudath Israel events and championing the needs of the community.”

Senator Lieberman, dubbed the “conscience of the Senate,” was a strong supporter of Israel, and worked to ensure its security both during and after his tenure as senator.

The statement went on to say: “Senator Lieberman was also closely involved with Orthodox Jewish leaders, such as Rabbi Moshe Sherer, legendary president of Agudath Israel of America, and Rabbi Herman Neuberger, the venerable late president of Ner Israel Rabbinical College. The senator referred to them as “tremendous representatives of Torah Jewry” who became his “great friends and advisors.”

The Agudath Israel added that, “Senator Lieberman was concerned with the Orthodox community’s representation in the secular world, saying that the rising population of Orthodox Jews within the larger Jewish community brought with it “a new power, but also a responsibility to represent the Jewish community to the non-Jewish community, to the government, and within the Jewish community itself, guided only by the words of Torah.”

“I regularly was asked by Jewish students if I knew ‘Senator Lieberman, the Sabbath observant Jew,’” said Rabbi Abba Cohen, vice president for government affairs and Washington director and counsel for Agudath Israel, who had a long-standing relationship with Senator Lieberman. “They wanted to know all about Joe. It was clear that he was a source of pride and inspiration to young people. He was an exemplar of Orthodox Judaism to the world. The senator and his Torah observance made an impression on people and intrigued them. People were influenced by, and attracted to, him and his values. Agudath Israel extends its deep sympathies and sincere condolences to the Lieberman family.”

Also commenting on what Senator Lieberman meant to them was Yeshiva University. In a statement, they said, “the entire Yeshiva University community is deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Senator Joseph Lieberman — a renowned figure of faith in the public square, a history-making statesman, and a beloved member of the YU family.”

Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University said, “Today, I lost a dear friend and mentor, and we all lost an American hero who devoted his life to the service of this country.  Senator Joseph Lieberman was a man of courage, faith, and fortitude, an independent thinker whose humility and commitment served as an example to all of our students and faculty at Yeshiva University.”

He added that, “I will miss Senator Lieberman’s wisdom and counsel as a University Trustee. He was our champion. He was a voice of moral reason and a true friend of Israel. Senator Lieberman embodied Yeshiva University’s mission: to produce excellent leaders and excellent citizens, empowered by faith and obligated by the bonds of duty. His memory will always be a blessing. His legacy to perfect the world as God’s partner will be recorded in the annals of American and Jewish history.”

The YU statement continued: In a career that spanned four decades, including as the first Jewish American nominated to a national ticket as the Democratic Party’s nominee for vice president in 2000, Senator Lieberman maintained a long and deep relationship with YU — a relationship based on shared values, goals, and a devotion to making the world better. Beyond his valued role as a professor at Yeshiva University, Senator Lieberman was a member of YU’s Board of Trustees since 2021. In that capacity he strengthened and guided YU’s vision, a vision that paralleled his own.

Inspired by Senator Lieberman’s stellar character, bold leadership, and commitment to public service, Yeshiva University announced earlier this year the new Senator Joseph Lieberman-Mitzner Center for Public Service and Advocacy through a principal gift from the Ira Mitzner and Riva Collins families. With Senator Lieberman as its model, the Center will empower the next generation of government leaders and public advocates, with a national and international focus, who are deeply rooted in Jewish values and tradition.

“I am devastated by the loss of our friend and mentor, a model of faith and civility across the political aisle, whose contribution to the world, and to YU, is irreplaceable,” said Ira Mitzner, Chairman of the YU Board of Trustees.

Also expressing his sorrow on the passing of Senator Lieberman, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted the following, “Sara and I grieve with Hadassah and the entire Lieberman family on the passing of our beloved Joe Lieberman. Joe was an exemplary public servant, an American patriot and a matchless champion of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.”

Netanyahu added that, “In my very first meeting with him decades ago, I was struck by his integrity, decency and civic courage. He had a deep moral sense and common sense and was fearless in the defense of truth. He was also an extraordinarily kind and loyal personal friend. We will miss you greatly, Joe. May the Lieberman family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”

As the nation mourns the loss of Joseph I. Lieberman, his legacy serves as a reminder of the enduring importance of integrity, faith, and public service in the pursuit of a more just and equitable society. In honoring his memory, we reaffirm our commitment to the ideals he championed and the principles he held dear, ensuring that his legacy continues to shape the future of American democracy for years to come.

 

 

 

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