May 30, 2024
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Mourners Gather in Stamford To Honor Senator Joseph Lieberman, z”l

Hundreds fill Congregation Ahavath Sholom in Stamford for Senator Joe Lieberman’s funeral.

On March 29, a capacity crowd gathered for Senator Joseph I. Lieberman’s funeral at Stamford’s Congregation Agudath Sholom (CAS). CAS Rabbi Daniel Cohen officiated, RJC Rabbi Dovid Zirkind read Tehillim, and Cantor Shim Craimer sang Kel Malei. Vice President Al Gore, Connecticut’s Governor Ned Lamont and Senators Richard Blumenthal, Chris Murphy and Chris Dodd joined Lieberman’s children, Hani Lowenstein, Rabbi Ethan Tucker, Rebecca Lieberman and Matthew Lieberman delivering eulogies.

The speakers shared similar themes. Lieberman was an authentic person who stuck to his beliefs. His Judaism was important to him. He had a level of decency and respect for others and he loved his family.

Vice President Al Gore eulogizing his former running mate Senator Joe Lieberman.

Lamont reminisced how their relationship started on a rocky note, “He never quite fit in that Republican or Democratic box. I think, maybe in an odd way, I helped liberate him. When he beat me, he won as an Independent, a proud Independent ever since. I like to think of him as that bridge over troubled waters since you see the partisan sniping from both directions.”

Blumenthal explained how Lieberman loved Stamford and what it gave his immigrant family. “Stamford made them feel welcome, at home and opened a world to them, a world that later opened even more, when he was the nation’s first Jewish candidate for vice president.

“The two years that we overlapped as colleagues in Washington were a masterclass in bipartisan persuasion and legislating. With Senator John Breaux of Louisiana, he formed the Kosher Cajun Caucus. He invited colleagues to partake of their recipes,” Blumenthal continued. “Over the years, I watched Joe disagree with colleagues and with me, but [he was] never disagreeable. He had a gift for differing, but never dividing. When he and I differed, we ended our conversations with a smile, because he believed in listening. He believed every person has a story, and every story is worthy of respect.”

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) speaking at Senator Lieberman’s funeral.

Murphy shared, “He was a giant to me growing up and entering Connecticut politics. He campaigned for me when I was a longshot candidate for the state legislature at age 25 because he believed in mentoring young people. For years, my official headshot was a cropped photo of me standing next to Senator Lieberman during that event. You could just see Joe’s shoulder in the picture. I chose that picture because of the transparent joy on my face caused by the thrill of Joe Lieberman coming to campaign for me.

“I’ve been asked what I learned from Joe Lieberman,” Murphy continued. “I learned to take every idea on its merits, to not discount an idea because it comes from a political adversary, to not adopt an idea because it comes from a political friend. Joe Lieberman decided whether something was good or bad, regardless of its political origin or impact.”

Senators Dodd and Lieberman represented Connecticut together for 22 years. “One day, Joe offered me a plan to divide our weekend obligations. My colleague recommended I should be responsible for all community events from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. In short, I became his Shabbos goy. On the other hand, Joe would assume a similar responsibility for me on Sundays. One day, I did the math. The Shabbos goy was responsible for 24 hours; Altar boy Joe for four to five hours,” said Dodd. “I believe Joe’s legacy will be reducing polarization and bitterness that has contaminated our national conversation these last few decades.”

Gore described how he and Lieberman went separate ways after the 2000 election. “However,” Gore expressed, “both of us knew deep down the strong foundation of our friendship and what we shared in common was so much larger, so much stronger than what was driving us apart.

“Politics can be a rough trade. As a recovering politician, I can certainly testify. The stakes are high, pressures great. Joe and I experienced those, but he always knew beyond doubt the true value of things. I saw him reclaim friendships seared by disagreements, look for ways to bridge divisions and stand for his principles, always.”

Hani reflected, “While your vast accomplishments could easily make you intimidating and difficult to approach, the reality could not have been further from the truth. Your accomplishments on the global scale were so awesome. So were your one-on-one interactions with everyone.

“We will build generations of God fearing, upright Jews that will look back to you for inspiration of everything that is good and right, of everything that brings us close to God,” Hani continued. “The lessons you pass down to us of kindness, integrity and righteousness will live on forever in our family and all those who choose to learn from you.”

Ethan compared Lieberman to Rabban Gamliel, the political head of the Jewish community, then deposed as the leader of the main rabbinic academy. How do we live a life of principle and integrity without closing ourselves off from others who don’t share all our values? How do we build bridges and broad tents that include the diversity of human viewpoints and experiences without forgetting what we stand for? Rabban Gamliel’s sin was his standards were too high, demanding their insides should be like their outsides. “For all of us mourning here today, we saw this synthesis and utter refutation of the entire dichotomy in the man we mourn today. His inside was like his outside. His inner gilded character and generosity shone through to all those who encountered him. His gleaming countenance was not a well-executed politeness. It reflected the inner joy he truly felt when he encountered each person. His integrity guided his actions. Nothing was done except for principle.”

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy honoring his predecessor Senator Lieberman.

Rebecca called her father exceptional. “Our country mourns his passing, particularly now when his style of leadership is badly needed and in such short supply. Although our dad left us suddenly, with no last conversations and blessings, we know what he wants for us and from us. He showed us how he spent his time and moved through the world, things he chose to devote his considerable talents to and his willingness to speak with clarity and stand up for ideas he knew to be truly right and important, regardless of their popularity.”

Matthew expressed, “My dad, like Joseph, stood astride many worlds, the Jewish world, the secular world, the political world, the religious world, America, Israel, the United States, Europe, our family home and the public square.

“It’s a great country. My dad loved it. He loved living in it. He loved serving it. He loves standing up and fighting for his fellow citizens.” Mathew noted the stories people have shared about his father. “All of these stories are true reflections of who he was. The person you knew was the same person we all knew.”

Rabbi Cohen closed: “As Senator Lieberman ascends to heaven, we believe God will ask him four questions that God will ask each of us: Whether we are devoted to family, whether we are devoted to our faith, whether we are people of honesty and integrity, whether we never lost faith in the possibility of making the world a better and brighter place. Senator Lieberman can answer these questions in the most profound ways.”

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