Tributes to Lieberman at funeral in Stamford


Mourners at Joe Lieberman’s funeral on Friday at Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford included Al Gore, who chose Lieberman was his vice-presidential running mate in 2000; current Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and former senator Chris Dodd, as well as Gov. Ned Lamont, who defeated Lieberman in a bitter 2006 Democratic Senate primary before losing to him in the general election.

Despite their differences over the Iraq war (Lieberman stood out among Democrats for his support), Lamont said he had grown to have an enormous respect for Lieberman’s integrity and faith.

Dodd, who represented Connecticut in the Senate alongside Lieberman for 22 years, said he and Lieberman divided their respective Sabbath calendars to continue meeting with constituents.

“Joe Lieberman recommended that I should be responsible for all community events from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday,” Dodd said. “In short, I became his Shabbos goy.”

“On the other hand, Joe would assume all the similar responsibilities for me on Sundays,” he said, joking that “one day I did the math — the Shabbos goy was responsible for 24 hours, and the new altar boy, Joe Lieberman, was on duty for four or five hours on Sunday.”

All of the speakers said Lieberman had a rare devotion to faith, family and public service, as well as a decency that he extended to those he knew best and those he barely knew.

Gore addressed the falling out that he and Lieberman had had over the Iraq War, which led Gore to endorse Howard Dean over Lieberman in the 2004 presidential primary.

“Joe and I went our separate ways after 2000,” Gore said. “I, for one, was tempted to anger at times, frustrated at Joe’s stubbornness and disappointed that he was taking a path that I thought was wrong. I know his disappointment in my turning away from him was surely just as profound.”

“Here the story could have ended,” Gore recounted. “If it had, we would have reached a dead end in a once loving and fruitful friendship.

“But it did not end there. We had another turn. Both of us knew deep down that the strong foundation of our friendship, and what we shared in common, was so much larger and so much stronger than what was driving us apart in those years.”

“Joe had that wisdom,” he said.

Lieberman was an active member of the Riverdale Jewish Center with his wife, Hadassah, and had grandchildren at the SAR schools.

“He was just a humble beloved member on a regular day or regular Shabbat,” said RJC Rabbi Dovid Zirkind. “He was everybody’s friend in shul.”

SAR Academy Principal Rabbi Binyamin Krauss described Lieberman as a champion of Israel.

“We consider ourselves a Modern Orthodox school, which is basically about being committed to observance, committed to our heritage, and engaged in the world,” Rabbi Krauss said. “And for many people, Joe Lieberman was the model of that. And I think, for a lot of kids and our families, that is something we aspire to.”

When thinking about a memorable moment he shared with Lieberman, SAR President Jack Bendheim recalled a pair of socks.

“I was with him someplace in DC in a hotel, and all of a sudden I noticed he took out of his pocket a pair of socks,” Bendheim said. “And I said, ‘What are you doing?’ He said he had learned from an old political guy in Connecticut that the best way to sort of reawaken after a long day of standing on your feet and campaigning was putting on a new pair of socks.

“When he got the nomination as vice president, we were in Los Angeles. I went out and bought him two dozen pairs of socks.”

“Daddy, as I approached Riverdale on Wednesday evening, I expected you and mommy to be waiting in the lobby of your apartment building with a smile on your face helping me schlep the stroller and bags with the energy of a 65-year-old and not an 82-year-old,” his daughter Hani told the funeral gathering. “But Hashem had others plans. G-d had other plans. This is what G-d wanted, and although you were 82, we all feel you were ripped away from us at a much younger age.”