Personal Memories of Joseph Lieberman

In the days since Joseph Lieberman, z”l, died, countless stories of his kindness and menschlichkeit have circulated in the Jewish and wider community. Many were told by prominent people, including members of Congress and other notable individuals. The stories described the personality of the first Orthodox Jew in US history to serve in the Senate and run on a major party’s presidential ticket. To show another side of Lieberman’s life and career, Jewish Action reached out to people who knew him to share their personal memories. Here are their stories. 

Rabbi Ephraim Glatt
I worked in the same law firm as Joe Lieberman, Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, for nearly a decade.  

Kasowitz is located in a tall building in Midtown Manhattan, a building with forty floors and where thousands of people worked. Like many large buildings in Manhattan, there were a handful of security guards situated in the ground floor lobby. People were always in a hurry, rushing and nodding, when they came in and when they left; few people ever sat and talked with the security guards.  

Except Lieberman. Whenever I saw him, he was talking and shmoozing with them. For a few minutes. 

Every day. He was as busy as the rest of us, probably busier, yet he would never rush past without a short conversation. Because he understood the importance of being a mentsch.  

Rabbi Ephraim Glatt, Esq., is associate rabbi at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills in Queens, New York, and a partner at McGrail & Bensinger LLP, specializing in commercial litigation.  


Harry Weller
I first met Joe Lieberman while in law school during an internship at the Connecticut Legislature. I worked for the Hartford Courant newspaper’s Don Noel, who was, at the time, a highly respected political reporter. 

One of my daily tasks was to ask legislative leaders which topics were current and which were not. Joe, as he insisted I call him, was the Senate majority leader. Each day he greeted me by name and with a smile and handshake. Then he schooled me on the day’s politics. I never felt rushed even when he was obviously rushed. 

Joe’s greatest impact on me, however, was not during our personal interactions but how he carried himself as an observant Jew throughout his meaningful high-profile life. Joe wore his Orthodox Judaism publicly and gracefully. After law school, as I evolved both professionally and religiously, Joe Lieberman did for me what Sandy Koufax did for a prior generation when he refused to pitch in a World Series game on Yom Kippur. 

What Koufax did that one day, Joe did every day.  

Attorney-author Harry Weller lives in West Hartford, Connecticut.  


Rabbi Daniel Cohen, rabbi of the senator’s congregation, Agudath Sholom, delivered a moving eulogy at  Lieberman’s funeral. He told Lieberman’s children and grandchildren that they are “tasked with carrying your grandfather’s [Jewish] legacy forward.”  

“What you may not realize,” Rabbi Cohen continued, “is that he was tasked by his grandmother to do the same.”  

“When speaking with  Lieberman about his life,” the rabbi said, “he told me that while at Yale, he struggled with remaining an observant Jew. When his grandmother died, he shared, ‘I experienced a feeling that now that she was gone, the chain in Jewish history was no longer there and that I now had a choice to put myself in the chain and be part of the future. I was compelled to return.’”  


An article in the Northern Virginia Daily last week told about Terry Segal, a Boston lawyer and a close friend of Lieberman since their days together at Yale University. Segal remembers that Lieberman, running for the office of Connecticut attorney general in the 1980s, declined to attend the state’s Democratic Party convention in person because it was held on Saturday.  

Instead, the shomer Shabbat candidate decided to pre-tape a message to be played for the delegates.  

It was an unorthodox move for the Orthodox Lieberman. Candidates never skip nominating conventions. “You could lose,” Segal told his friend.  

“Well, so what?” Lieberman said.  

He won the nomination. And the general election. 

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