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Lieberman’s mom kvells

Marcia Lieberman with her son, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.). (Marcia Lieberman/Connecticut. Jewish Ledger)

Marcia Lieberman with her son, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.). (Marcia Lieberman/Connecticut. Jewish Ledger)

STAMFORD, Conn., Jan. 14 (JTA) — Sitting on the stage as her son announces his candidacy for president, Marcia Lieberman grasps her grandson’s hand and begins to tear. “It’s beyond what any mom would ever dream,” she says later in the day. The mother of Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) opened her home Monday to her son, family, friends, a slew of campaign operatives and the national media. As the senator tackles tough questions in the living room of the small, two-story house here where he grew up, Marcia Lieberman sets out plates of cookies and bowls of fruit for her guests. And like a good Jewish grandmother, there are sucking candies on the table as well. She can hardly be heard in the cramped kitchen, as she whispers as to not interrupt her son’s interviews. Suddenly, she asks around the room, “Can I talk louder?” “You can talk as loud as you want,” one of her granddaughters replies. “It’s your house.” It is a busy day for the 88-year-old Lieberman, but she is in a reflective mood, spouting small words of wisdom on being a good Jewish mother: “In raising a child, spoil them but love them,” she says. “That’s the secret.” And when a reporter needs a little help with her Yiddish, Marcia Lieberman tries to explain the word “nachas,” helping the reporter pronounce it, translate it to English — she says it means “happiness from relatives and friends” — and even spell it. Her kitchen seems like something out of a Neil Simon play, complete with flowered drapery, a key chain rack with the word “Shalom” on it and a small menorah on the windowsill. On her back door, there is a wooden sign with the family’s last name etched in it, and in Hebrew, bruchim haba’im, which means welcome. The candidate’s mother, a widow, walks with a cane and speaks slowly, but has a great deal of spunk. When her son was the vice presidential nominee in 2000, running with then-Vice President Al Gore, she campaigned across the country for the ticket. And when Gore announced last December that he would not seek the Democratic nomination in 2004, the senator’s mom was the only member of the family who was doing media interviews. She expects to be on the campaign trail this time around, too. “I certainly will, as much as I can,” she said. “I enjoyed it last time, and I’m certain I will enjoy it this time.” In the home where she raised three children, Marcia Lieberman says she didn’t talk about political aspirations with her son when he was young, but instead instilled basic values. “I taught him that everyone is born equal. You can make friends with anyone you meet.” But as he grew, she says she knew that he would go far in politics because he understands people. She likens her son to John F. Kennedy, who as a presidential candidate in 1960 was trying to be the first Catholic in the White House. She is proud of her observant Jewish son, but quickly says she does not think Jewish families are any different from others. And like any good mother, she has a bold prediction for 2004 and beyond: “He’ll be the best president there ever was. I’ll tell you that.”

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