If Connecticut's Attorney
General Joe Lieberman
unseats U.S. Sen.
Lowell Weicker Jr. in
November, he will become
the first Orthodox Jew
in the Senate.
ith a full-time job and
countless hours on the
campaign trail, Joe
Lieberman fully under-
stands the meaning of
"I look forward to my Shabbos
nap during this campaign," says
Lieberman, the Connecticut attorney
general who hopes to unseat veteran
Republican Sen. Lowell Weicker Jr. in
November. "Being observant does
give added perspective. No matter
how important politics are, other
things — like family and religion —
are more important!'
Political analysts say a Lieber-
man victory would make the 46-year-
old Democrat the first Orthodox Jew
in the U.S. Senate. Congress now in-
cludes 35 Jewish representatives and
"It's (being an Orthodox Jew) not
the big campaign issue," Lieberman
explains. "Yet it would create a small
piece of history.
"I guess you could say I threw my
yarmulke into the ring," he says.
He doesn't wear a kippah every
day, yet Lieberman davens twice a
day and wears tsitsit. He is shomer
Shabbat, and stresses he has never
compromised religious beliefs to
benefit his political career. His strong
Orthodox background did, however,
help him choose the political arena.
Lieberman was raised in Stam-
ford, Conn., where he belonged to an
Orthodox congregation and attended
"I absorbed everything my
parents and rabbis taught me about
Judaism being a foundation for com-
passion, justice and community ser-
vice, " he says. "Politics seemed a
natural and appropriate setting to
further those teachings!'
If he wins a seat in the U.S.
Senate, Lieberman says he will con-
tinue his religious observances, and
at the same time, successfully serve
the people of Connecticut.
He boasts of a good attendance
record during his 10-year stint as a
state senator — even though he
observes all Jewish holidays and
never drives or works on Shabbat. As
majority leader in the state senate for
six years, he set the legislative calen-
dar and avoided such scheduling
As a U.S. senator, Lieberman says
he would be willing to make some
compromises if a political situation
was critical to the quality of life in
Connecticut or the world. If crucial,
Lieberman says, he could spend Shab-
bat in the Capitol office, walk to the
Senate chambers and vote by voice.
He has discussed the matter with
several rabbis, who agree that an
obligation to the public would make
such an act acceptable by Jewish
"In those special cases it would be
my responsibility to the United States
to represent them at that critical
hour," he says.
Lieberman calls himself the "peo-
ple's lawyer" and is making a pitch
as a crusader for consumers and the
average citizen. Weicker — who
became known as a maverick liberal
when serving as a member of the
Senate Watergate hearings — bills
himself a defender of constitutional
Religion is not the basis of Lieber-
man's campaign, but he talks about
it openly and hopes the public will
"The fact that I've been observant
consistently helps people to respect
my beliefs!' Lieberman says, adding,
"I feel more effective the other six
days of the week when I take that one,
special day off!'
Lieberman knowingly missed the
1988 Connecticut Democratic Con-
vention because it fell on Shabbat. In
fact, he prepared a pre-recorded accep-
tance speech for his supporters while
he observed Shabbat with his wife,
Hadassah, and their children.
In 1982, during a heated battle for
the state's first full-time attorney
general position, Lieberman missed
the Saturday state convention.
And in 1986, during his re-
election bid, Lieberman again miss-
ed the convention, which always is
held on Shabbat. Despite his
absences, he secured his party's
nomination each time.
Lieberman's supporters include
individual Jews, Jewish religious
leaders, entrepreneurs, lawyers and
politicians. Yet he says he has failed
to secure campaign funds from pro-
Israel political action committees.