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Joe Lieberman, longtime senator and first Jewish-American VP candidate, dies at 82

“Senator Lieberman’s love of God, his family and America endured throughout his life of service in the public interest,” his family stated.

Joe Lieberman, a former U.S. senator and former vice presidential nominee, at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on May 21, 2015. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90.
Joe Lieberman, a former U.S. senator and former vice presidential nominee, at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on May 21, 2015. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90.

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman died on Wednesday afternoon at the age of 82 after complications from a fall, according to a statement from his family.

“Senator Lieberman’s love of God, his family and America endured throughout his life of service in the public interest,” Lieberman’s family stated. “His beloved wife, Hadassah, and members of his family were with him as he passed.”

For decades, Lieberman was one of the most prominent Jewish voices in American politics, and he was the first Jewish American candidate on a major party presidential slate after former Vice President Al Gore tapped him as his running mate in 2000.

“Joe was an exemplary public servant, an American patriot and a matchless champion of the Jewish people and the Jewish state,” wrote Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“In my very first meeting with him decades ago, I was struck by his integrity, decency and civic courage. He had a deep moral sense and common sense and was fearless in the defense of truth,” Netanyahu added. “He was also an extraordinarily kind and loyal personal friend.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) posted on the tail end of a trip to Israel about his “dear friend” Lieberman’s death.

“As I am just now leaving Israel, so many emotions. This is devastatingly sad. I feel fortunate to have been in his presence, traveling the world in support of America’s interests as we saw it,” Graham wrote. “The good news, he is in the hands of the loving God. The bad news, John McCain is giving him an earful about how screwed up things are. Rest in peace, my dear friend. From the Last Amigo.”

“Joe Lieberman was a true mensch and a great American. It was a pleasure and an honor to work with him in the Senate,” stated Norm Coleman, national chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

“He built a successful political career while staying true to what he felt was right. Time and again, Senator Lieberman put principle over politics,” Coleman stated. “He was a shining example of all that’s good and decent about public service, and he was a committed and proud Jew who served his country with distinction.”

“Joe Lieberman was called the last of the Scoop Jackson Democrats,” he added. “We miss those Democrats who took the defense of liberty seriously, and who worked with their colleagues across the aisle to keep America—and our ally Israel—safe.”

AIPAC stated that Lieberman was “an American patriot who was a historic champion of U.S.-Israel relations and the Jewish people.”

“Throughout his career, Senator Lieberman was indefatigable in advancing pro-Israel policy and legislation,” AIPAC stated. “Time and time again, his leadership was essential and critical in promoting policies that strengthened the bonds between the United States and Israel.”

“His extraordinary strength of character, humility and fundamental decency inspired all who worked with him,” it added. “The pro-Israel movement will always be indebted to him, and he leaves a legacy that we will forever cherish.”

Lieberman was first elected to public office in the Connecticut Senate as a Democrat in 1970 and served for 10 years, before losing a race for a seat in Congress in 1980. He then served as Connecticut’s attorney general from 1983 until he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1988.

He ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 2004, but his vote for the 2003 Iraq War left him with little support and he withdrew from the race without winning any contests.

An observant Jew, Lieberman described himself as an independent, who tended to side with conservatives on foreign policy and liberals on domestic policy. He narrowly lost the Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut in 2006 but won the general election as an independent. 

He continued to caucus with Senate Democrats for the remainder of his career, despite endorsing his friend John McCain, the late Arizona senator, for president at the 2008 Republican National Convention.

Lieberman announced his intention to retire from the Senate in 2011 and concluded his fourth term in January 2013.

In retirement, Lieberman remained a staunch advocate for Israel and for a robust American foreign policy as chairman of the advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran, among other affiliations. He was a member of Kesher Israel, a Modern Orthodox synagogue in Georgetown.

Lieberman’s funeral will be held on March 29 at Congregation Agudath Sholom, a Modern Orthodox congregation in his hometown of Stamford, Conn.

An additional memorial service will be announced at a later date.

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