Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
News

Communal Organizations Eye Lieberman

Senator Joseph Lieberman may have given up the presidential ticket, but some of his Jewish admirers have a new mission for him: leader of a major Jewish organization.

It’s a mission that his closest friends and relatives says he’s highly unlikely to accept. “No way, no how,” said one close associate of Lieberman’s.

Leaders of several organizations are said to be exploring the senator’s availability, including the World Jewish Congress and United Jewish Communities. The executive vice president of the WJC, Elan Steinberg, said that officials within his organization told him they had reached out to Lieberman’s camp and reported back that Lieberman had in fact expressed interest in replacing Edgar Bronfman as the group’s president. The former whisky baron will retire from the World Jewish Congress sometime before 2006. Other WJC officials would not confirm having discussions with Lieberman about the post.

Rumors of a UJC candidacy appear to have been circulated mainly by people with no direct knowledge of or involvement in such a decision. The UJC’s current president and chief executive officer, Stephen Hoffman, who agreed to take the job only for a single three-year term, is leaving a post riddled with high turnover and arduous searches for successors.

The UJC presidency is a paid job, whereas the WJC presidency is a volunteer position.

Several people close to Lieberman said they thought it would be a bad idea for him to take either job and insisted the senator probably shares this view. “If he asked me I would advise him against making any changes,” Lieberman’s childhood rabbi, Joseph Ehrenkranz of Stamford, Conn., told the Forward.

Other Lieberman associates said they were not sure what the senator would do, but did not think he would let anything interfere with his job on Capitol Hill. “He’s very happy in the Senate,” said Lieberman’s mother Marcia. “He’s doing a good job and I’m proud of what he does there. But I really cannot speak for him.”

Ary Freilich, Lieberman’s brother-in-law, said: “I think Joe is a United States senator who takes his commitment to his position very seriously, and he will continue to be a United States senator.”

But the chairman of the WJC board of governors, Rabbi Israel Singer, told the Forward that Lieberman would not have to leave the Senate to head the organization. “We had a French senator, Michel Dreyfus-Schmidt, who was president of the European Jewish Congress,” Singer said. He declined to confirm or deny if Lieberman had been approached, but said he would approve of such a gesture.

Ehrenkranz, rabbi emeritus of Agudath Sholom, told the Forward that it would be inappropriate for Lieberman to head either organization while serving his constituents in Congress. “It would be a distraction from his job,” Ehrenkranz said.

In contrast to the WJC, the UJC committee charged with finding a successor to Hoffman is remaining mum, leaving Lieberman speculation in the realm of rumor. Hannah Rosenthal, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an affiliate of UJC, said the idea had been floated at the UJC General Assembly in Jerusalem in November, but not by anyone with decision-making power on the issue.

One UJC lay leader, Richard Wexler, tried to dispel the rumors. “It’s like a Purim spiel,” he said. “The guy only resigned his campaign for presidency three days ago.”

A message from our editor-in-chief Jodi Rudoren

We're building on 127 years of independent journalism to help you develop deeper connections to what it means to be Jewish today.

With so much at stake for the Jewish people right now — war, rising antisemitism, a high-stakes U.S. presidential election — American Jews depend on the Forward's perspective, integrity and courage.

—  Jodi Rudoren, Editor-in-Chief 

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.