Joe Lieberman’s former chief of staff calls senator ‘single most wonderful man’ he’s met

Michael Lewan worked as former Sen. Joe Lieberman’s chief of staff for four years and remained close professionally and personally to Lieberman and his family until the end of his life. 

Lewan told The Jerusalem Post working for Lieberman was the “single best career move” he’s ever made. 

His bipartisan nature came naturally and it showed in his relationship with individuals who were not part and parcel with the political system. 

“He respected their opinions, he valued their judgments. He was open minded even when he disagreed,” Lewan said. “He was an agreeable person. He loved a good political fight, but he understood it was just a political fight. It wasn’t personal, and that he was sent to Washington by the people of Connecticut to get things done.”

Lieberman considered it to be a privilege to be the first Jewish vice presidential nominee and felt the responsibility on his shoulders. Lieberman also carried the mantle for other civil rights and religious warriors over the years, Lewan said, describing how Lieberman joined civil rights marches in the South as a teenager. 

“He knew if you were to make changes, you have to change the minds of people who otherwise disagree with you,” Lewan said. 

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner at the Shurat HaDin Law and War Conference, with (from left) former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, US Senator Joe Lieberman and former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott (credit: SHURAT HADIN)

Lewan joked that he’d refer to Lieberman as Sandy Koufax when Friday nights working in the Senate got complicated with the timing of Shabbat.

Lieberman’s Jewishness

Lieberman’s Jewish identity impacted him in other ways. 

“I think his basic sort of sense in his heart and in his mind of being Jewish meant that he had to be charitable, he had to be open minded,” Lewan said. “You know, he wasn’t a Torah scholar, but he certainly was a Torah follower.”

Lieberman understood that he was here to make a positive difference in people’s lives and not spend all of his time arguing and fighting about small points but to look for areas of agreement. 

“I don’t know if that’s particularly Jewish, but it’s certainly a good philosophy and a way to not just live life in Congress but to live life generally,” Lewan said. 

Lewan spoke of Lieberman’s love and devotion to Israel, saying he believed in the safety and security of Israel not only as a former senator but as an American citizen. 

“I’ve been a father, a better husband and just a better citizen because of my relationship with Joe Lieberman, just being around him,” Lewan said. “I learned how to behave in better ways that have been rewarding to me spiritually as well as professionally. So his real mark on people like me was not what he did in the Senate, but the way he changed our lives personally.”

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