Joseph Isadore Lieberman (b. 1942) was born in Connecticut, the grandson of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Austria-Hungary. He was the first in his family to graduate from college, and earned degrees in political science, economics, and law from Yale. After working at a successful law firm, Lieberman was elected to the Connecticut Senate and served as a state senator for 10 years. Following this, he served as Connecticut’s Attorney General. He then ran for the U.S. Senate and won a seat, serving for three full terms as a Democrat, and another term as an independent, for a total of 24 years of service on the U.S. Senate. Over those years, Lieberman chaired and was a member of a wide range of committees, including Homeland Security, Environment and Public Works, as well as Armed Services. Despite being a Democrat for so long, Lieberman has a reputation for being quite conservative. He supports a strike on Iran, and has criticized Obama for avoiding terms like “Islamic extremism”. He has always been fervently pro-Israel, and it has been said that “there is nobody who does more on behalf of Israel than Joe Lieberman”. This is most likely because Lieberman is actually a practicing Orthodox Jew. In 1967, after his grandmother’s death, Lieberman returned to his Jewish roots, and has kept kosher and Shabbat ever since. When Al Gore ran for president in 2000, Lieberman was selected as his running mate, making him the first Jew to run for vice-president of the U.S. Although Gore and Lieberman actually won the election in terms of popular vote, Bush and Cheney were awarded the presidency after a long legal battle. In 2008, Lieberman received an award for Greatest Public Service by an Elected Official. He has been called a “national treasure” and “one of the greatest Senators we’ve ever had…” Lieberman has also written 7 books, one of which is The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath.
Words of the Week
Whoever saves a single life, is as though he saved an entire world. – Talmud, Sanhedrin 37a
Frank Raleigh Lautenberg (1924-2013) was born in New Jersey to a poor family of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Russia. His father died young from cancer, leaving his mother to support the family by selling sandwiches. After high school, Lautenberg fought in World War II, serving in the army until 1946. At the time, returning war veterans had their education financed by the government, so Lautenberg got an economics degree from Columbia Business School. He first worked for an insurance company, then as a salesman, eventually rising to the rank of CEO. In 1978 he became New York’s Port Authority, managing the area’s vast transportation infrastructure. That brought him closer to politics, and in 1982 he ran for the Senate as a democrat. One of his first major moves as senator was bringing into effect a minimum drinking age, set at 21 years since 1984. In 1990 his ‘Lautenberg Amendment’ passed into law, making it easier for refugees to immigrate to the US, thus opening the doors to thousands of Jews fleeing the collapsing Soviet Union. Since then, countless refugees from around the world have been able to find asylum in the US due to this law. Lautenberg’s second famous amendment passed in 1996, banning the sale of firearms to those convicted of domestic violence. After winning two more re-elections, Lautenberg decided to retire in 2000. However, he quickly regretted the decision, and came back in 2002, winning re-election again in 2008. Lautenberg wrote legislation that banned smoking on airplanes and in federal buildings. He voted consistently for more stem cell research, gun control, and peaceful foreign policies, making him a hero among liberal democrats. Sadly, he passed away this Monday from viral pneumonia after a previous battle with lymphoma. At 89 years of age, he was the oldest-serving senator, and the last to have fought in World War II.
Words of the Week
Are you as careful with what comes out of your mouth as you are with what enters it? – Chassidic Proverb
Jacob Joseph Lew (b. 1955) grew up in Queens and graduated from Forest Hills High School. He is the son of a lawyer originally from Poland. Lew began his career in politics working as an aide to a democratic representative, while also studying at Harvard, and later rose through the ranks in Congress. Eventually he became director of several institutions, including the Center for Middle East Research. In 1993 he was appointed Special Assistant to President Clinton. His amazing work in the budgeting department led to him becoming the director of the Office of Management and Budget for the Clinton Administration, meanwhile serving on the National Security Council. After Clinton’s term ended, Lew was Vice President of New York University, where he also served as Clinical Professor. Lew returned to government with the Obama administration, first as Deputy Secretary of State, then Budget Director, and most recently White House Chief of Staff (the highest ranking White House employee – sometimes nicknamed the “Co-President”). He has since taken up the position of Treasury Secretary, making him the highest ranking Orthodox Jew in U.S. history. It also means his signature will appear on all newly printed currency in the U.S. This sparked a bit of controversy due to Lew’s funny signature, causing President Obama to joke that he wanted to rescind the nomination when he saw it. Lew is a practicing Orthodox Jew, devoted to his family and his community. In the past he assisted Natan Sharansky in freeing Jews from the former Soviet Union, together with his rabbi, who has described Lew as “one of the most unassuming, giving, and caring congregants I’ve ever been blessed to have… rare for a person in such a powerful position to be the quintessential mensch.”
Words of the Week
Man… sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present, the result being that he does not live in the the present or the future. He lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived. – The Dalai Lama