Lieberman First National Jewish Candidate

ByABC News
August 7, 2000, 9:54 AM

Aug. 8 -- Al Gores selection of Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, as his running mate takes the Democratic presidential ticket into uncharted waters.

Never before has a U.S. presidential candidate chosen a Jewish running mate. Gores selection of the Connecticut senator, which will be formally announced today, has sparked questions about whether enough of the American public is ready to elect a Jewish vice president.

Asked if he thought a Jewish candidate would face the prospect of anti-Semitism while campaigning, Gore told ABCNEWS last week, I dont think those old distinctions and categories matter these days, the way they did in the past.

The vice president added: I think weve grown as a nation I think weve grown beyond that kind of attitude. I think that the day is coming when thatll be completely irrelevant in all of our politics.

Many Jews Are Optimistic

Many Jewish observers, inside and outside of Washington, expressed optimism about the reception Lieberman will get.

Rabbi Barry Freundel the rabbi of the synagogue Lieberman attends in Washingtons Georgetown neighborhood told ABCNEWS the pick represented a breakthrough moment in American politics.

Id like to hope weve gotten past the point where it matters, says Freundel.

Moreover, says Freundel, Liebermans personality is not such that he naturally draws attention to his faith: He doesnt come at you with his religion on his sleeve.

Mark Mellman, a prominent Democratic pollster who attends the same synagogue, calls Gores decision a test for America that he believes we will pass with flying colors.

Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, a major Jewish organization, said the choice of Lieberman was a milestone in Americas political maturity.