Hundreds mourn ‘supreme mensch’ Joe Lieberman at Jewish senator’s funeral

‘We laughed together, we fought like hell together for what we wanted our country to be’ said Al Gore


US Senator from Connecticut Joe Lieberman passed away last week at the age of 82. (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

On Friday morning, hundreds of people showed up at Agudath Shalom Synagogue in Stamford, Connecticut to mourn former Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman, who passed away at the age of 82 last week.

Lieberman, served four terms in the Senate representing the state of Connecticut and was chosen by Democrat Vice President Al Gore as his running mate in the 2000 election, becoming the first Jewish candidate on a major-party ticket.

Alison Sharaf, a staffer for Lieberman from 1997 to 2001, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency: “He’s very forthcoming, he’s very honest, just tells it like it is and he’s a good human being.”

For Sharaf and many others, Lieberman stood as a model of bipartisan cooperation and respectability which contemporary politics lacks, and his famous friendship with Republican Senator John McCain was a testament to his brand of political tolerance: “That’s the way it’s supposed to be done, but those days are over,” Sharaf said.

Amid the scandals of the Clinton presidency, Lieberman and Gore based their presidential campaign on pillars of integrity and morality. Though their ticket won a narrow plurality of the popular votes, beating out the Bush-Cheney ticket by half a million votes, they fell short in the Electoral College, leading to a controversial recount and intense legal battle, losing the presidency by a mere 537 votes after the US Supreme Court stopped a recount in a handful of key Florida districts.

After his loss, Lieberman sought the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination but withdrew from the race after losing multiple primaries, believing his support for the war in Iraq to have doomed his candidacy. But within political circles Lieberman was popular across party lines, receiving support from a number of prominent conservatives and democrats alike. Despite Lieberman going against the grain by endorsing Republican McCain in his 2008 presidential bid, he maintained the affection of former and current Democratic leaders who worked with him.

Speakers at the funeral ceremony included Gore, Chris Murphy, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Dodd, all current and former Connecticut senators who knew Lieberman and his family through his long career in the state’s politics and spoke highly of his character.

According to JTA, Gore said during his speech that Lieberman led a “life of constant consequence for his family, his friends, his nation,” and he commended Lieberman’s commitment to “reconciliation as a form of grace” in politics, an approach that Gore said was needed to “heal the rancor in our nation today.”

“We laughed together, we fought like hell together for what we wanted our country to be,” Gore added.

Lieberman’s son Matt also gave a moving speech in which he called his father a “supreme mensch.”

“He was blessed and he was a blessing for all of us.”

Tributes to Lieberman also poured in online, with former President Barack Obama writing on X: “Joe Lieberman and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but he had an extraordinary career in public service, including four decades spent fighting for the people of Connecticut. He also worked hard to repeal ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ and helped us pass the Affordable Care Act. In both cases the politics were difficult, but he stuck to his principles because he knew it was the right thing to do. Michelle and I extend our deepest condolences to Hadassah and the Lieberman family.”

President Joe Biden also commented on Lieberman’s passing, writing that he and Lieberman served in the Senate together for 20 years: “He was principled, steadfast, and unafraid. And he was a friend. Jewish liturgy says of ‘those who serve the needs of the community faithfully, may God grant them their reward.’ Our hearts remain with his family, and with those who loved Joe across our nation, which he served faithfully for so long.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive