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Joe Lieberman Was a True Man of Faith

The official Senate portrait of Joe Lieberman.


I was deeply saddened by Senator Joseph “Joe” Lieberman’s passing earlier this week. A colossus in American politics, Senator Lieberman exemplified the essence of principled leadership — itself a rare commodity in that realm. Yet, to define him merely as an outstanding politician scarcely captures the breadth of his remarkable journey.

As an observant Orthodox Jew, Senator Lieberman navigated the pinnacle of US political power with an adherence to faith that was as commendable as it was extraordinary. For many, leading a life aligned with devout religious principles and the requirements of Jewish ritual law is more than challenging in the rough-and-tumble of an ordinary existence. But Senator Lieberman managed this feat in the high-stakes life and public scrutiny of the world’s most high-octane political stage, setting a profound example of integrity and character strength.

Born into an unobtrusive, humble Jewish family in Stamford, Connecticut, Senator Lieberman’s Orthodox Jewish faith guided him throughout his life and career. His dedication to the Jewish religion and to his Jewish heritage was evident in every aspect of his life — whether it was observing demanding Sabbath laws, or the strict requirements of a kosher diet.

In an address to students at Brigham University in 2011, Senator Lieberman explained his deep religious commitments: “My Jewish faith is central to my life, including my career in politics. My faith has provided me with a foundation, an order, and indeed a purpose, and has so much to do with the way I navigate through each day, both personally and professionally, in ways both large and small.”

At the same time, Senator Lieberman’s ability to integrate this profound personal identity into a universal message of tolerance, respect, and understanding truly set him apart. He was able to be a deeply committed Jew and an all-round American with an ease that truly showed how this ideal can be achieved.

During Senator Lieberman’s historic 2000 vice-presidential campaign, his Orthodox Jewish faith was thrust into the national spotlight, providing the American public with a vivid illustration of his devout adherence to Jewish religious principles. Perhaps the most symbolic of these moments occurred each Friday evening and throughout Saturday, when Senator Lieberman would abstain from the usual campaign activities, respecting the halakhic prohibition against traveling in a car and using communications devices.

But while Senator Lieberman’s devout Jewish practices and proud faith left a significant impression on the American public in 2000 — so much so, that one Jewish leader, feeling self-conscious about his own lesser observance, publicly asked Senator Lieberman to “keep religion out of the presidential campaign” — these were not new or performative acts. Senator Lieberman’s commitment to his faith was a long-standing and sincere part of his life, not undertaken for public admiration.

Throughout his tenure in the US Senate, Senator Lieberman was committed to participating in crucial votes, often staying late to ensure his voice was heard, even if it was a Friday night. However, in observance of Sabbath restrictions, he conscientiously refrained from using the Senate’s electronic voting system on Friday evenings. And then, following the vote, instead of opting to drive home, Senator Lieberman would embark on a 4.5-mile walk back to his apartment in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

Remarkably, considering the deeply divided political arena of 2024, Joe Lieberman’s political career was marked by a sensible, non-progressive liberalism emphasizing bipartisanship, moral clarity, and a deep commitment to democratic values that embraced consensus and eschewed partisan conflict. Throughout his tenure in the US Senate, Senator Lieberman championed causes that reflected his moderate approach, always striving to find a middle ground in an increasingly polarized political landscape.

One of Senator Lieberman’s most defining political positions was his unwavering support for Israel and the importance of the US-Israel relationship. He viewed this bond not merely as a matter of foreign policy but as a deeply personal commitment, rooted in his faith and his understanding of the strategic importance of a strong bond between United States, the world’s most powerful democracy, and Israel, a tiny democracy in a region swamped by theocracies and corrupt dictatorships.

His advocacy for Israel’s security and prosperity, and his efforts to strengthen the ties between the country of his birth and the country of his religious heritage, were relentless and unyielding. As he explained, “Support for Israel is not just a matter of policy for me, it is a personal commitment that reflects the best of what America stands for.”

When Senator Lieberman visited our synagogue in Beverly Hills in 2015, he was the keynote speaker at a broadly attended public session about the future of Jewish education, titled: “How do we educate the children of this generation for a future we cannot yet envision?” His sensitivity to the aspirations and challenges faced by the next generation of Jews in particular, and Americans in general, was remarkable –showcasing a level of depth and compassion that surpassed the frequently superficial engagement characteristic of seasoned political figures.

Senator Lieberman’s legacy is not just in the laws he helped pass or the political battles he fought; it is in the example he set. His life demonstrated in real time, during our lifetimes, the power of living one’s values, of the possibility of unity in diversity, and of the enduring value of true religious faith in public life. Senator Lieberman showed us that it is possible to be devout in one’s personal beliefs while simultaneously serving a diverse and pluralistic society productively and with a broad-mindedness that enables and effects positive outcomes for all.

As we commemorate Senator Lieberman this week, I am reminded of a tradition in Jewish education where the first book of the Torah taught to young children is the third book of the Pentateuch: Vayikra (Leviticus) — which is currently being read in synagogues worldwide. This book, with its detailed focus on the rituals of the ancient Temple, is introduced early to instill the significance of Jewish faith rituals in the next generation before they delve into civil laws and the foundational stories of the Jewish people. This approach underscores a belief that once faith is firmly established, it naturally leads to moral behavior in everyday life and enables meaningful participation in broader society.

Senator Lieberman’s life, deeply rooted in the Orthodox Jewish tradition from his earliest days, exemplified this principle. His unwavering adherence to faith and its rituals equipped him to navigate the complexities of public life with a moral compass that was both steadfast and inclusive. He became the quintessential everyman politician, capable of representing individuals from all walks of life — old and young, left and right, privileged and underprivileged. His journey underscores the transformative power of faith to guide moral action and foster broad societal engagement, serving as a perfect example for future generations to follow.

The author is a rabbi in Beverly Hills, California.

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Iran’s ‘Supreme Leader’ Welcomes Anti-Israel Campus Protesters to ‘Resistance Front’

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a televised speech in Tehran, Iran. Photo: Official Khamenei Website/Handout via REUTERS

Iran’s so-called “supreme leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, applauded the anti-Israel protesters who have thrown university campuses across the US into chaos over the past several weeks, declaring them part of a new “branch of the Resistance Front” against the Jewish state.

“Dear university students in the United States of America, this message is an expression of our empathy and solidarity with you,” Khamenei wrote in an open letter published on Thursday. “As the page of history is turning, you are standing on the right side of it.”

Rehashing antisemitic conspiracies of Jewish control, he derided “the global Zionist elite” for speaking against the campus demonstrations.

“The global Zionist elite — who owns most US and European media corporations or influences them through funding and bribery — has labeled this courageous, humane resistance movement as ‘terrorism,’” Khamenei wrote. “You have now formed a branch of the Resistance Front and have begun an honorable struggle in the face of your government’s ruthless pressure — a government which openly supports the usurper and brutal Zionist regime.”

Khamenei also praised students in other countries who have launched anti-Israel demonstrations on campuses, noting the leading role that faculty have played in fostering and supporting the unrest.

“Besides you students from dozens of American universities, there have also been uprisings in others countries among academics and the general public,” he wrote. “The support and solidarity of your professors is a significant and consequential development. This can offer some measure of comfort in the face of your government’s police brutality and the pressures it is exerting on you. I too am among those who empathize with you young people, and value your perseverance.”

Khamenei’s letter came amid an outpouring of praise for the anti-Zionist students by Islamist terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda.

“While we support the assassination of the infidel Zionists and the beheading of them, we also appreciate and value the movement of Western demonstrators and sit-in students from Western universities, who through their sit-ins and protests expressed their rejection of the genocide taking place in Gaza,” al-Qaeda leadership wrote in a recent communique

Hamas and Hezbollah, both backed by Iran, have also cheered the protests.

“Today’s students are the leaders of the future, and their suppression today means an expensive electoral bill that the Biden administration will pay sooner or later,” Hamas official Izzat Al-Risheq said in a statement last month.

Naim Qassem, the deputy head of Hezbollah, also praised the protesters during an interview with Al-Manar TV earlier this month.

“We appreciate and value this very much. Perhaps in the future, there will be cooperation among the youth of the world — in America, France, Britain, Germany, and all the activists,” he said. “The [campus protests] are important, especially because they will have an impact on US elections. They will have an impact on the American position.”

Earlier this month, when some universities suspended students who had occupied sections of campus and refused to leave unless school officials agreed to condemn and boycott Israel, the Iran-backed Houthi militia, a terrorist organization that has repeatedly violated freedom of the seas by attacking international shipping vessels passing through the Red Sea, offered to admit the disciplined students as transfers to Sanaa University, an institution it administers.

Some anti-Zionist student groups have reciprocated the admiration.

Last week, Columbia University’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) endorsed Hamas, the latest sign of its growing extremism and willingness to embrace Islamic extremism and antisemitism.

“The Palestinian resistance is the only force materially fighting back against isr*el [sic],” the group said in a series of posts shared by Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus, a social media account which exposes antisemitism on college campuses. “There is no way to eliminate the resistance without ending the occupation. When you see a video of a young palestinian [sic] boy traumatized in a hospital talking about how iof [the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF] shot his pregnant mother in cold blood in front of his own eyes, do not question how he chooses to resist years later.”

Campus Reform, a higher education watchdog which first reported Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus’ posts, noted that Columbia SJP has added an “inverted red triangle” to its social media biography, further indicating its support for Hamas. The Palestinian terrorist group has used an inverted red triangle in its propaganda videos to indicate an Israeli target about to be attacked, and anti-Israel protesters on university campuses have been using the symbol in their demonstrations.

Columbia SJP, a group that has re-formed under multiple names since being suspended by school administrators during the fall semester, was central in staging a slew of riotous demonstrations in which anti-Zionist activists verbally assaulted Jewish students with antisemitic epithets, clamorously expressed support for terrorism and Hamas, and caused thousands of dollars in damages to school property.

The anti-Zionist student movement’s support for terrorism and anti-American ideologies has been expressed before.

Footage of the protests which erupted on college campuses at the end of spring semester showed demonstrators chanting in support of Hamas and calling for the destruction of Israel. In many cases, they lambasted the US and Western civilization more broadly.

“Yes, we’re all Hamas, pig!” one protester was filmed screaming during the fracas at Columbia University, which saw some verbal skirmishes between pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist partisans. “Long live Hamas!” said others who filmed themselves dancing and praising the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas terrorist organization. “Kill another solider!”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Advocacy Group Attempts to Shore Up Support for Israel Among US Democrats

US President Joe Biden addresses rising levels of antisemitism, during a speech at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Annual Days of Remembrance ceremony, at the US Capitol building in Washington, DC, US, May 7, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

A pro-Israel advocacy group is attempting to quell fears among US Democratic politicians that expressing support for the Jewish state amid the ongoing war in Gaza will lead to electoral defeat in November. 

Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), a group that advocates for pro-Israel policies within the Democratic Party, circulated a memo this week explaining that the war in Gaza is simply not a top priority for most of the electorate. The memo, first acquired by Axios news website, asserts that “it just isn’t true” that Democratic support for Israel will come at an electoral cost. 

The group argues that a series of misleading polls has caused Democratic elected officials to become more tepid in their support for the Jewish state. 

To bolster its claims, DMFI points to a poll conducted by the New York Times in May which revealed that only 2 percent of voters cite Israel, Palestinians, Hamas, or Gaza as their most important issue. Nonetheless, the Times tried to exaggerate the extent to which voters care about the Israel-Hamas war by highlighting the 5 percent of voters who cite foreign policy as their biggest issue, according to DMFI. However, these 5 percent of voters did not identify if the war in Gaza is their major foreign policy concern.

The group also points out a Harvard-Harris poll from April which showed that Americans overwhelmingly side with Israel in its ongoing war effort. Eighty percent of Americans support Israel and only 20 percent back Hamas, the poll revealed.

DMFI also suggests that Israel’s ongoing military offensive against Hamas has not had a noticeable impact on President Joe Biden’s national standing. According to polling data aggregated by FiveThirtyEight, the president’s approval rating on Oct. 7of last year stood at 39.6 percent, and on April 23 last month, his approval stood at 40 percent. The same poll reveals that presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s lead over Joe Biden did not grow over the same time period. 

DMFI president Mark Mellman told Axios that anti-Israel activists represent a small fringe of the American electorate. 

“People sometimes mistake volume for percentage, and the fact that some people are very loud doesn’t make them the majority. … It doesn’t even make them a substantial minority,” Mellman said.

The group’s efforts to reach out to Democrats come on the heels of a high-pressure effort by left-wing groups to force the Democratic establishment to stop supporting Israel. Anti-Israel organizations have organized efforts to encourage voters in Democratic primaries to vote “uncommitted” in lieu of voting for Biden. Moreover, nearly every appearance by Biden in recent months has been marked by the presence of scores of angry anti-Israel protesters

The relationship between Democratic politicians and the Jewish state has significantly soured in the months following Hamas’ Oct. 7 slaughter of over 1,200 people in southern Israel. High-profile Democrats such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) have suggested that Israel is committing “genocide” against Palestinian civilians.

Meanwhile, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA) signed onto a letter urging Biden to pause weapons shipments to Israel. Biden vowed to stop arms deliveries to Israel if the Israeli army attempts to dismantle the remaining Hamas battalions within the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, expressing concern about the prospect of civilian casualties during such an offensive.

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Hate crimes in Toronto are predominantly antisemitic—and the numbers continue to rise: TPS security and intelligence commander

Antisemitic hate crimes continue to account for more than any other category of reported hate crimes in Toronto, according to the head of Toronto police intelligence. Superintendent Katherine Stephenson of Toronto Police Service (TPS) confirmed the ongoing spike in hate occurrences during a presentation at Holy Blossom Temple on May 29, where she addressed 350 […]

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