The daughter of Holocaust survivors who immigrated to the United States when she was just a toddler, Hadassah Lieberman says she is an example of the American Dream.
“Whether you and your family immigrated from Europe, Africa, Mexico, Latin America or Asia, I am standing here for you,” she told a cheering crowd earlier this month as her husband was named Al Gore’s running mate.
“This country is our country. This land is your land. And anything is possible for us.”
A Family’s Journey
Hadassah’s journey to that campaign rally in Nashville, Tenn., began more than 50 years ago. In 1948, she was born in a Czechoslovakian refugee camp to Samuel and Ella Wieder Freilich.
Years before, her father, a rabbi, had led an escape of 20 men from a march to Auschwitz. Her mother, Ella, survived the Nazi concentration camps at Dachau and Auschwitz.
When Hadassah was a small child,, the family fled to the United States and settled in Gardner, Mass. Hadassah went on to study government and drama at Boston University and to receive a master’s degree from Northeastern University.
“I think that I’m — what you see is what you have …,” she told ABCNEWS in a recent interview. “I grew up through public high school and went to college and graduate schools, and so I’m pretty much like a lot of the people in America.”
Starting a Life in Politics
Hadassah married a rabbi, Gordon Tucker, who now leads a progressive synagogue in White Plains, N.Y., but they later split up. She had had been divorced for a year when a friend gave her name to Joseph Lieberman, who was running for Connecticut attorney general, in 1983. It took six months of Lieberman to call, but just a year after meeting, they married.
And Lieberman’s political career took off. By 1988 he had been elected to the U.S. Senate. He would soon team up with Sen. Al Gore of Tennessee to found the Democratic Leadership Conference.
The family now splits its time between Connecticut and Washington, D.C. Hadassah works as an adviser to a Jerusalem hospital that treats Israelis and Arabs and she sits on the board of an Auschwitz memorial center.
She and Lieberman have a 12-year-old daughter, Hana. She also has a 24-year-old son, Ethan, from her first marriage. He has two children of his own.
‘I’m Just Praying’
Friends of the couple credit Hadassah for keeping her husband humble. In his book In Praise of Public Life, Lieberman wrote his wife warned him not to get a swelled head after he became a senator.
It “is just a job. It’s not you,” she told him.
Friends say Hadassah has advised her husband on difficult matters, such as his now famous Senate speech blasting President Clinton’s behavior during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and he still brings her flowers on Fridays.
For her part, she is proud to be the first potential Jewish “second lady.” During the week her husband was chosen to be Gore’s running mate, she told reporters, “I’m just praying. I’m overwhelmed by this incredible moment in time, in history, in the history of my family and the history of many immigrants who are sharing this feeling with us.”