Douglas Sagal

The day Senator Lieberman sent his regrets

Many years ago, I was a pulpit rabbi in beautiful rural Connecticut.  The area I served was, to put it mildly, very “waspish”.  It was white, Protestant, and many of the residents well off.  One of the highlights was a weekly Bible study with the parishioners of the local churches. The ladies who attended were terrific – funny, interested, enthusiastic, and kind.

When I announced I was leaving the area for another pulpit, a group of these kind Protestant women decided to make me an afternoon  “luncheon” to thank me for my service.  I arrived at the stately New England home on the river and immediately the hostess apologized over gin and tonics.  They had invited Senator Lieberman to attend, and they were positively shocked that he had declined their invitation to bid farewell to a Connecticut rabbi.  After all, as they explained with puzzlement-he was the only Jewish senator, and I was from his home state!

They honestly couldn’t understand why a Jewish senator would pass up this opportunity to honor a fellow Jew-and a rabbi yet!  It was charming, naive, and subtly anti-semitic (I thought you Jews are so clannish, aren’t you?) but I forgave these nice ladies and Senator Lieberman did send a nice note typed by a staffer.  A year later, I ran into Senator Lieberman as he was running for Vice President and reminded him about not showing up for my Episcopalian farewell party-and ever the politician, he smiled, shook his head, and moved on.

I disagreed with the Senator over his later tension with Barack Obama, but he was in his life, a model of a devout, committed and genuinely good Jew and decent human being.  And, he missed a great party!  May his memory be a blessing.

About the Author
Rabbi Douglas Sagal is currently Rabbi of Congregation B'nai Israel, Rumson NJ. He has served congregations in Connecticut, Chicago, and New Jersey. He is a past president of the New Jersey Association of Reform Rabbis. Rabbi Sagal is a graduate of Wesleyan University, Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion, Yale Divinity School, and is a Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute.