Senator Lieberman Speaks at Yeshiva University, Relates How He Shared Chizuk from Rabbi Soloveitchik With Palin


joe-lieberman-yuA capacity crowd of more than 1,000 people filled Yeshiva University’s Lamport Auditorium to hear a conversation on Jewish ideas and American Democracy between Senator Joseph Lieberman (I – CT) and the director of the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought, Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, on the evening of August 31, the last day of fall orientation.

As the first of a series of public conversations on religion and democracy, the event also served as the first public gathering of the fledgling Straus Center, attracting an audience of students, alumni, administrators, faculty and members from the greater Jewish community.

President Richard M. Joel welcomed Lieberman to Yeshiva, referring to him as a “groundbreaking Jew,” “a serious Jew,” and “a member of the family.”

Rabbi Soloveichik called Lieberman, “The perfect person in which to begin our series of public conversations of America and religion.”

Using Lieberman’s latest book, The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath, as a springboard for discussion, the conversation revolved around the senator’s life as a well-known observant Jewish public servant. Lieberman recounted the inspiration he felt from the presidency of John F. Kennedy-the first Roman Catholic president-which eventually convinced him to enter politics and noted the great progress made in the realm of religious tolerance in America since that time.

An especially crowd-pleasing moment occurred when Lieberman described an encounter he had with former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin days before her televised debate during the 2008 election season. With Palin feeling nervous and off her game, her aides contacted Lieberman, asking him to helo calm her as “they both were religious.” He went on to report that he shared an idea of Yeshiva University’s own Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (the great-uncle of the Straus Center’s director) with Palin, which gave her strength and motivation before the debate.

The senator closed the conversation by directly addressing the students in the audience, urging them to pursue their desired professions knowing that their faith need not hinder their success. “In this country and at this moment you will never have to choose between living a Torah observant life and your secular professional career,” he said. “Whatever you do, do it with the confidence that the system will respect your observance.”

“Senator Lieberman embodies the promise of America,” said Rabbi Soloveichik after the event. “We were delighted with his forthrightness. He answered my questions eloquently and we loved having him.”

{Noam Newscenter}


  1. Why did he address that issue of all things? Orthodox Jews fill every sector of the business and professional worlds. Who needs to be told that frumkeit is not a barrier to professional success?