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Uniting the Divided

Hadassah Lieberman, child of Shoah survivors, is known for hard work andvolunteerism.

by Julie Wiener

August 10, 2000 | 8:00 pm

Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman with wife Hadassah and children Hana, seated left, Ethan, standing left, Rebecca and Matthew in a photo from the family's 1997 Rosh Hashanah holiday card.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman with wife Hadassah and children Hana, seated left, Ethan, standing left, Rebecca and Matthew in a photo from the family's 1997 Rosh Hashanah holiday card.

Minutes after the official announcement that her husband would be the first Jewish vice presidential candidate on a major ticket, Hadassah Lieberman stepped on the national stage.

"Here I am, the daughter of survivors from the Holocaust, the most horrendous thing that happened," she said Tuesday, standing with Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore, Gore's wife, Tipper, and her husband, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, at a World War II memorial in Nashville."And here I am in the place that commemorates the American heroes, the soldiers who actually liberated my mother in Dachau and Auschwitz."

She immediately added her thanks for being an American and said, "Whether you and your family immigrated from Europe, Africa, Mexico, Latin America or Asia, I am standing here for you. This country is our country!"

Born Hadassah Freilich in postwar Czechoslovakia, Lieberman is the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. Her mother, Ella, survived both Auschwitz and Dachau, and her father, Samuel, survived a Nazi labor camp. The family came to the United States in the early 1950s, when she was 3 years old.Lieberman, 52, grew up in Gardner, Mass., where her father served as a congregational rabbi.

A graduate of Boston University, Lieberman has spent most of her career doing public relations on health-related issues. Until recently, she worked for the National Research Council, linking American corporations to mathematics and science education reform. She has also worked with the Hospital of Saint Raphael in New Haven, Conn., and for Pfizer, the national pharmaceutical company.

The Liebermans met in 1982, a meeting Joseph Lieberman described in his book, "In Praise of Public Life," as "chemistry at first conversation and later that day love at first sight."

Lieberman's first husband, Rabbi Gordon Tucker, is a former rabbinical school dean at the Conservative movement's Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and now a congregational rabbi in suburban New York. Her son from that marriage, Ethan, is a third-year rabbinical student and doctoral candidate at JTS.Known in Washington for her volunteerism, Lieberman has been particularly active as a board member in the nondenominational Jewish day school from which the Liebermans' 12-year-old daughter, Hana, recently graduated.

Susan Koss, head of the Jewish Primary Day School, said the Liebermans "truly are wonderful people, nonpretentious and honest. She doesn't just sit and have her name on stationery, but puts forth effort."Lieberman has also volunteered with the American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, organizing a delegation to Israel for a U.S.-Israel conference on women's health issues and creating an advisory network on women's health.

The Liebermans have also supported the Lubavitch movement, one of the country's largest and most visible Chassidic streams.

Rabbi Levi Shemtov, director of the Washington office of American Friends of Lubavitch, said Lieberman "exudes warmth and a caring that comes across as very real."

"Her greatest passion is to take people that have been divided and unite them," he said, noting that Lieberman strives to bring together Jews of different streams.

"Maybe her whole life is a revenge on Hitler," said Shemtov. "Here we have two people [her parents] who according to Hitler's ugly plan should have been annihilated, but actually survived to produce half a team that is in line to lead the United States."

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