Joseph Lieberman never once used the words “Jew” or “Jewish” during the biggest speech of his political career.
But on Wednesday night, he made it clear why his nomination as the Democratic vice-presidential candidate represents the fulfillment of the American dream for the grandson of Jewish immigrants.
Mollie Welinsky, 72, had to shout to be heard above the din as some 18,000 Democrats cheered Lieberman to the rafters of the Staples Center at the end of his vice-presidential acceptance speech.
“That was a fantastic speech that had everything. It was funny, to the point, sentimental and patriotic,” said Welinsky, standing in the midst of the California delegation Wednesday evening.
“Lieberman proved that Al Gore couldn’t have made a better choice to show the diversity of the Democratic Party,” said Sarah Carren of Stockton, Calif. “Everyone was thrilled with his wife, she’s a great speaker, too.”
“He said all the right things and said them with grace and humor,” agreed Karen Wingar of Pasadena, Calif.
Lieberman’s speech was interrupted 27 times by stormy applause and standing ovations by delegates waving elongated red signs spelling out Lieberman and chanting “Go, Joe, Go.” The same exhortation was flashed in neon signs encircling the great hall.
Howard Welinsky, Mollie’s son and chairman of Democrats for Israel, got a call earlier from California’s Latino Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, asking whether Welinsky would like six passes to the evening’s proceedings.
“Every Jew in America would like to be in Staples Center tonight,” responded Welinsky in gratefully accepting the passes.
Opening his remarks with “Is America a great country, or what?” and closing with “Only in America,” the grandson of immigrants expressed his pride and gratitude to the United States.
“I have seen” the goodness of this country “through the eyes of my grandmother,” Lieberman said. “She was raised in Central Europe, in a village where she was often harassed just because of the way she worshiped God.
“Then she immigrated to America. On Saturdays, she used to walk to the synagogue, and often her Christian neighbors would pass her and say, ‘Good Sabbath, Mrs. Manger.’ It was a source of endless delight and gratitude for her that here in this country, she was accepted for what she was.”
Lieberman was introduced by his wife, Hadassah, who described “Joey’s” bedrock values as based on “family, faith, congregation and neighborhood.”
Her husband, in turn, spoke of Hadassah’s family background as the daughter of Holocaust survivors.
“Her family was literally saved by American GIs who liberated the concentration camps,” he said
“Then her parents escaped communism and were welcomed as immigrants to America and given a new life. The fact that a half century later, their daughter would be standing on this stage is a testament to the power of the American dream.”
Delegates cheered again when Lieberman introduced his 85-year old mother.
Near the end of his speech, Lieberman spoke of his and his party’s goal: “To overcome the differences that are still between us, to break down the barriers that remain, and to help every American claim the limitless possibilities of their own lives.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.