2012: Lieberman Endorses the American Way, But Not a Candidate
Senator Joseph Lieberman was the featured speaker at the Sixth annual Gershon Jacobson Lecture at the Park East Synagogue on October 3. The event was hosted by the Gershon Jacobson Jewish Continuity Foundation and its news publication, The Algemeiner Journal.
Preceded by a donor’s reception and a signing of Senator Lieberman’s new book ‘The Gift of Rest,’ the event also welcomed Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York to the podium. In his introduction of the Consul General, Dovid Efune, Foundation Director, spoke of the ability of communication methodologies to impact opinion, a theme continued by Aharoni, an initial proponent of the “Brand Israel” project. Aharoni said there is a “need to improve Israel’s image.” Noting the tendency to “see all the bad things” when relating to Israel, he suggested that there must be “celebration of Israel and all the things that make us proud,” saying Israel must be seen “as a source of pride and a bastion of innovations and creativity that makes the world a better place.”
Rabbi Arthur Schneier recalled the heritage of Gershon Jacobson and acknowledged the late publisher as a dear friend. He praised Senator Joe Lieberman as a “leader who knows how to bring Kiddush Ha Shem“ and one who has brought cavod (honor) to the Jewish people.
“Care,” said Simon Jacobson, eldest son of the founding publisher, is the single word that captures the essence of his father. Those that care, he said “make, move and act.” Characterizing his late father as “a journalist maverick who would cry under his tallit at Yom Kippur,” he said “you influence or you will be influenced,” noting that making a difference by caring was essence of the Algemeiner Journal.
Calling him a synthesis of what’s best in the American and Jewish experience, Rabbi Menachem Genack introduced Senator Joseph Lieberman as “a man of wisdom, principle and moderation, an enormous defender of Israel and father of the Homeland Security Department.” The Senator responded with gratitude to the man he called his “muse and his nudge.”
Lieberman spoke briefly about the subject of the Sabbath. Calling he Seventh Day “an opportunity to gain sanctuary in time,” He said this “gift of rest from HaShem“ enables us to acknowledge that we are here as the result of divine creation and have responsibilities.”
Expressing his admiration for the late Gershon Jacobson, and his designation as “maverick” (Simon Jacobson) and “a warrior for truth” (Eli Weisel.) He noted that the Algemeiner and the GJCF are “independent truth telling advocates for the Jewish people and Israel” and bridge builders to bring the “wisdom of Jewish tradition to the modern world.” He praised the paper’s use of modern media to reach algemeiner – everyone.
Lieberman’s talk combined the best of an exhorting sermon, an exciting rally, and an extraordinary commencement speech. He spoke about Religion and Politics in the Context of the 2012 Campaign, saying America defined itself by “its values and its purposes,” and was, from its beginning, a “faith based initiative.” In the Declaration of Independence, the founders expressed the rights to religious freedom – and freedom from establishment of an official religion. America is a “remarkably religious country. “God continues to do very well in America,” a nation that lives by what President Lincoln termed “a kind of civic religion… (where) people of all religions are welcomed and given their place in the public square.”
“G-d Bless America, said the Senator, noting that in 5772 years of Jewish history, Jews have had more freedom, success and opportunity in America than anywhere except Israel. He recalled that Al Gore, in choosing him as his Vice Presidential candidate, had said “fear of anti-Semitism among Jews is much greater than the reality of anti-Semitism among Christians.” When a hand lettered sign reading “Viva Chutzpa” appeared at an Hispanic rally, said the Senator, it represented the “basic sense of opportunity that America provided…a ticket with a Jewish American got a half million votes more than the other ticket – an objective indicator of the religious tolerance that was the dream of our founders.”
Commenting on the 2012 Presidential election, Lieberman said he “does not share the anxiety about candidates’ open professions of faith…Jews get nervous, remembering that such discussions are often a precursor to bad times,” he said, but quickly advised “keep in mind the extraordinary history of religious freedom, tolerance and acceptance, and the constitutional framework that protects us.” Further, said the legislator, it is a “remarkable time when the relationship between Christians and Jews is at an unprecedented good level.” He gave special recognition to the “great movement of change” among Christian Evangelicals. A leader of CUFI, Christian United for Israel, said Lieberman, had noted that “there are millions more Christian Zionists in America than Jewish Zionists.”
Turning to current and future politics, Lieberman warned that the 2012 campaign “will be partisan, bitter, and personal.” Clearly stating that he was “not endorsing any candidate,” he noted that, should one of the two Mormon candidates in the Republican be nominated, “it will break a barrier – the first time a Mormon will be running. I hope the Jewish community is…in the lead to make sure they are judged in the American way – based on qualities and not based on their faith.”
“It’s a tough time in American life…Hundreds of millions of Americans are pessimistic about Americas Future I don’t buy this pessimism. This century will be another great century for America – don’t ever sell such a nation short. We have these inalienable rights…capacities and responsibilities” Confidence in the power of every individual, said Joe Lieberman, will “propel us forward again out of this crisis”…the special source of strength for the American people will not be overlooked as we go through the 2012 campaign.”