Interview: 'Religion Is Definitely a Personal Centerpiece of Our Lives'

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It had been a noisy night. Press trucks were gathering on the street in front of their New Haven house, and the Liebermans were having trouble sleeping. Somewhere around 3 a.m. Hadassah Lieberman stuck head out her bedroom window and said, "Shhh, too much noise." Hadassah says she was still half-asleep in bed at 6:55 a.m. Monday when Joe heard a snippet on TV that he had been chosen to be Al Gore's running mate. "Come on Joey, don't kid around," Hadassah told him. "Then the 'Today Show' had this whole big story about Joey becoming the candidate." She doesn't know how it happened that the media learned before they did. But they did.

At the end of a unique week, Hadassah Lieberman sat down for a Q&A with TIME's Ann Blackman:

Q. The media has described religion as the centerpiece of your lives. Do you want to adjust that lens or is it on target?

A. Religion is definitely a personal centerpiece of our lives. Absolutely. That's because we have traditional values within that context. It centers me. It makes me prioritize my life. I know there is something out there, and we feel humbled. And part of the reason we feel humbled is that we sort of understand who we are in context to the broader universe. And that's OK. That's good. There are a lot of people who find their centering in various ways. I'm not suggesting it has to be through religion. I'm not suggesting it has to be through God. I'm not suggesting it has to be any of that. I'm saying that's what works for us. And we'll share that with the whole country.

Q. How will you combine your religious responsibilities with the rigors of the campaign, particularly in late September and October when there are a lot of Jewish holidays?

A. We've always had the same holidays. They'll be the same ones now. We're going to be very creative in the ways we move forward. The Sabbath is something we have always observed. We may be spending it in various cities throughout the country. We've always felt we are observant, traditional. I've never gotten into this labeling of Orthodox, frankly. The press has gotten into that more than us. We've just always been traditional and observant. That's an important way to describe it because it's more inclusive of so many different ways of celebrating the Sabbath and tradition, and some people don't celebrate it that way, and that's fine.

Religion to us has been a very personal, private thing that's been empowering and centering. It's personal, however at the same time, it's personal for a lot of people throughout the country who feel very strongly the same way.

Joe and I are blessed with having a real partnership. We're very close. We share that with Tipper and Al Gore. We have the same feeling of priority for family and children. This is important. We want to help our husbands win, but they are also our priority as husbands and family. I think that my being there with Joe and sharing the same common religious values with him has been very helpful to him.

Q. Has the media put too much emphasis on your religious background?

A. It's new. And that's great. But truthfully the Jewish population in Connecticut is about 3 percent, and that's about parallel to what it is around the country. So once we get over this initial describing period, we'll be fine.