Moshe Katzav: A Profile of Israel's New President
by Staff Writer
"Vice President Al Gore's selection of Senator Joseph Lieberman is the political equivalent of landing a man on the moon," stated Rabbi Marvin Hier (Simon Wiesenthal Center) in a press release on Aug. 8, 2000. In the chapter 'Religion' in Joe Lieberman - The Historic Choice by Stephen Singular (Pinnacle Books, New York 2000), one can learn about the linkage between Lieberman and his Jewish religion. It is clear from a Jewish-American vantage point that this selection means to put to rest "...the taboos that a person's religious or ethnic background should prevent him from seeking the highest office in the land."
Of course, there are still many anti-Semites in this country. There are anti-Jewish feelings inside the African-American community, for example. But the issue is the fact that Joe Lieberman is not just a secular Jews. He is an Orthodox Jew which, according to Stephen Singular's book, tends to share his ideas and feeling with 'his' Rabbi in Connecticut, Rabbi Joseph Ehrenkranz: "My parents and my Rabbi, Joseph Ehrenkranz, taught me that our lives were a gift from God, the creator... The summary of our aspirations was in the Hebrew phrase tikkun olam, which is translated 'to improve the world' or more boldly 'to complete the creation which God began...my faith was just one of many great gifts my father and mother, Henry and Marcia Lieberman, gave to me," wrote Joe Lieberman in his recent political autobiography In Praise of Public Life (Simon and Shuster, NewYork 2000).
Indeed, he pointed out that: "My grandmother Minnie, was a very strong influence on my early life in ways that still affect me today" and "she was deeply religious woman and his 'Window to the Old World." His wife, Hadassah Freilich Tucker, is also a religious person. In Praise, Lieberman stated that he and his second wife have a lot in common: "Strong family commitments to Jewish religious observance and values."
On Aug. 7, 2000, ADL stated: "The choice of Senator Joe Lieberman as a Vice Presidential candidate is a milestone in America's political maturity." A new poll, according to Joe Lieberman by Singular revealed that 90% of the voters will support a Jewish candidate (only 40% in 1940). But suddenly those who were so happy to enjoy the end of a 'taboo,' the American Jews expressed some kind of a fear: Joe Lieberman speaks too much of religion and faith. Jews were always the first ones to defend the 'sacred' separation between religion and state. The ADL's Abe Foxman, who praised the historic choice of Lieberman, criticized him for endangering the separation between religion and state.
ADL and many Jews did not like the fact that candidate Bush said that Jesus Christ was his favored philosopher. The idea is that the religion should have no place in the political world. Lieberman is for morality, for values. He believes in faith. He believes in values. He is certainly a political preacher. He expresses his ideas in his autobiography. He does personally cherish religion as a source of value and a better world and society. But he was never a missionary. He is not a Jewish evangelist. He will not enforce values on other people. He is not a fanatic. He observes Jewish laws but he is quiet and flexible. For example: observing the laws of Shabat.
In Praise, he wrote that his friends and senators tried to help him to be a good Jew but often he worked on Shabat. Once he told his supporters when the issue is 'governmental responsibilities' he will work on Shabat: "So as a senator, I would attend sessions held on Saturday," he wrote. In Joe Lieberman, (by the way, an excellent guide to his life, ideas, his senate's records and quotations from his important speeches), Singular quotes Rabbi Ehrenkranz who explains that Judaism is 'absolutely not evangelical' and that Lieberman can often work on Shabat.
This is to demonstrate that Lieberman is a balanced leader who never expects his friends or partners to live according to the teaching of the Talmud or the Torah. He respects the separation of religion and state. He is a true American, first of all. He is for moral or spiritual reforms or 'awakenings.' So what? He is against those programs on TV which is detrimental to the healthy balance of our children. So what? As Singular shows the support of Lieberman in Connecticut had nothing to do with his Jewishness but with his great personality and unique integrity as well. His Jewishness and his religion is a marginal issue from the vantage point of national politics. Al Gore did not select him because he is Jewish or because of the 'Jewish vote,' which is traditionally democratic anyway.
We can discuss the Lieberman Factor but it is an issue of Lieberman's qualities which do help Al Gore in the running process. Even in the issues of the Middle East, Israel should not develop a high degree of expectations. In Praise, Lieberman did not mention or discuss American-Israeli issues. He crossed lines in 1991 to support 'Desert Storm.' He built a democratic group for ex-President Bush but he did it in order to support America's goals and not the Israeli one. Of course, he supports Israel, like many non-Jewish senators. It is because the goals of Israel and America were similar. The idea was to show that when you defend Israel, you defend the U.S. It is the same interest. But the senate record shows that Lieberman voted to sell arms to Saudi Arabia "...demonstrating that his motivations where Middle Eastern issues are concerned are clearly more complicated than detractors might like to claim."
The conclusion is: Joe Lieberman was selected by Al Gore because he, according to many such as Senator Ed Kennedy, is "A Giant in the Senate."
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