Liebermans wife a strong advocate, child of survivors

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NEW YORK — 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 and Tipper Gore, 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 offered her gratitude 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 post-war Czechoslovakia, Lieberman is the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. Her mother, Ella, survived the death camps in Germany and Poland 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 was 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 pharmaceutical firm.

The Liebermans met in 1982, a meeting the senator 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 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 Primary Day School. The head of the school, Susan Koss, said the Liebermans "truly are wonderful people, nonpretentious and honest.

"She's willing to work. She doesn't just sit and have her name on stationery, but puts forth effort. She doesn't undertake jobs she won't fulfill."

Hana, the Liebermans' 12-year-old daughter, recently graduated from the school.

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 and later creating an advisory network on those same issues.

The Liebermans have also supported the Lubavitch movement. Rabbi Levi Shemtov, director of the Washington office of American Friends of Lubavitch, said Lieberman "has probably personally touched hundreds if not thousands of lives in Washington, D.C." and "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.