Tuesday, August 08, 2000

Jewish leaders say Lieberman optimistic choice

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman's selection as Al Gore's running mate is an important one, local Jewish leaders said Monday.

        Not simply because the senator is Jewish, they stressed.

        “It's an optimistic statement about American voters and American society,” said Rabbi Ken Ehrlich, dean of the Cincinnati campus of He brew Union College. “The vice president's choice shows his faith in the American voter — that in the year 2000 prejudice is not going to affect a vote.”

        The senator readily accepted Mr. Gore's offer.

        “It is well-known that Sen. Lieberman is a very dedicated Jewish man and has participated in the Jewish community and values his heritage,” said Dr. Gary P. Zola, executive director of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, on the campus of Hebrew Union College.

        “He sees it as being critical to his involvement in the government and in government service. This is a wonderful, wonderful affirmation of American freedom.”

        Dr. Kenneth Newmark, president of the Cincinnati chapter of the American Jewish Committee, also praised Mr. Gore's choice.

        He admitted he was surprised, particularly since Mr. Lieberman is an Orthodox Jew. They are considered traditionalists who follow Jewish laws “to the letter.”

        They uphold the Sabbath which begins at sundown Friday and lasts to sundown Saturday.

        “When there were significant votes (in Congress) he walked to Congress rather than ride in a car,” Dr. Newmark said. “But I doubt that the Orthodox issues will be an impairment to his being vice president.”

        But does the senator's selection mean that minorities and women will have a better chance at the White House? It's difficult to say.

        “I always hoped that during my lifetime, I would have the opportunity to see an openly committed Jewish man or woman run for national office,” Dr. Zola said. “This is a special country — that the most powerful office in the country — the presidency — could be occupied by a man or a woman, a Jew or a non-Jew, or someone of color.”

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