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Home > Family & Lifecycles > A vice president for 8-year-olds

A vice president for 8-year-olds

Staff Writer

Whoda thunk it? A Jew in the White House in November?

Gore 2000
Joe Lieberman

After all the talk of blue dresses, cigars and the lack of integrity in the Oval Office these days, anything is possible, I guess.

My first painful thoughts when I learned of Joe Lieberman's nomination were practical ones. As a Democrat whose heart has been known to bleed for the right motivation, I threw up my hands and wondered what Gore was thinking when he considered a Jew as his running mate. Lack of personal and political integrity are Gore's biggest hurdles to overcome in this election. The general American stereotype of Jews leaves much room for distrust and skepticism among voters.

My eight-year-old son's thoughts were quite different from mine. His first comment when he heard of Joe Lieberman's nomination was, "But a Jew wouldn't have sex with Monica Lewinsky. He would respect HaShem [God]," as if having extramarital sexual relations is in the job description of national political office these days.

I was startled by his directly innocent, but powerful assessment. As we continued to discuss this issue together, his view began to make far more sense than mine.

My son, like all children, sees the world with colorless lenses. Black or white, rarely any shading of gray. What you see is what you get. There are basic principles of right and wrong. Group thinking is the norm, and being outside of the "clique" is inconceivable. HaShem holds the ultimate key to morality and ethical responsibility. And the President of the United States must, by nature of his position, be dishonest.

For me, as a parent who greatly misses the days of honor in the White House and ultimate respect for our political leaders, I am thrilled to have someone like Joe Lieberman to hold as an example for my son.

Speculation about what Shabbat will be like in Washington if Lieberman is the Vice President has been a favorite dinner discussion of late in our house. Will Congress close on Jewish festivals now? What about the National Christmas Tree? Will there now be a National Seder Plate? Will the White House kasher [kosherize] the kichen? Will more Jewish senators and congressmen be open to eating kosher?

Ultimately, Joe Lieberman as vice president may do far more for Jewish children than what we may expect on the surface.

My son, who is often in the company of children of diverse religious backgrounds, has grown cautious to mention religion or even HaShem openly. Lieberman's comfort with his faith may cause "God" to become an acceptable term to discuss in public school or on the soccer field.

My son has learned to reply to taunts from peers who don't understand the purpose of his kipot or kosher diet by offering educational explanation. With any luck, this kind of unconscious social anti-Semitism may soon disappear as Joe Lieberman educates Americans about Judaism.

Religious and racial tension may begin to soften as it becomes the norm for Jews and others to interact without the overt labeling of "Black-Jewish" relations, or "Judeo-Christian" values.

Denial of the Shoah may be a thing of the past as Hadassah Lieberman walks as a living, breathing testimony as a child of survivors.

In bringing the true nature of the effects of having a Jewish Vice President into context through my eight year old's eyes, I can maybe appreciate what Gore was thinking when he chose Joe Lieberman as his vice presidential candidate. Perhaps he was thinking that his biggest hurdle was the lack of personal and political integrity currently in office and that Joe Lieberman, with his unhidden Jewish morality, might be exactly the ethical integrity boost that is needed in this presidential campaign.

In the end, if we, as parents, can teach our children to tolerate, if not respect, a womanizing, unethical, personally irresponsible president who made us all consider blue dresses in a different light, we certainly can bring pride and honor to our kids with a Jewish example like Joe Lieberman.

©, 2000. May not be reproduced without written permission.

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