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Lieberman death hit Denverite hard

The news of former Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s sudden death on March 27 hit Denver’s Rob Schwartz like a ton of bricks. “I got the call early in the morning from one of his very close colleagues whom I’ve known for 40 years,” Schwartz said from New York, as he was on his way to connect with the Lieberman family in Connecticut. “She said, ‘are you sitting down?’

Joe and Hadassah Lieberman, pictured during the 2000 presidential campaign. (IJN file photo)

Joe and Hadassah Lieberman, pictured during the 2000 presidential campaign. (IJN file photo)

“She led me into how he got dizzy and fell, and I just felt a shiver going up my back. Then she told me that he’s in the hospital and they expect him to expire within the hour.”

Lieberman died that morning.

Schwartz is in the final stages of finishing his documentary on Lieberman, slated to be released later in 2024. When Lieberman was in the Connecticut state house, Schwartz was the senator’s chief of staff.

“I met him about 40 years ago,” Schwartz recalled. “He hired me as his chief of staff. What I saw up close was, first, as important as the work he was doing in the legislature and his legal practice, it fit within the confines of being a Torah Jew.

“On Fridays at 2 p.m. or so, we knew he’d be walking out the door. We knew if any legislative issues came up, we would have to wait until there were three stars in the sky on Saturday night.

“I saw up close and personal that level of observance and respect for tradition all the way through running for vice president.

“He was a very modest guy with a blazing intellect. I always felt he would have made a great president of the United States. In 2000, he was disappointed, but he realized when they lost that he had to pick up the chips and move on.

“He knew it was an honor for him to be representing the Jewish people as the first member of a ticket, and he took that seriously.”

The genesis for the Lieberman documentary came when Schwartz was working on his first documentary “Upheaval,” the story of former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Schwartz enlisted Lieberman’s support, which later led to the idea of featuring Lieberman separately.

“When we presented the idea to him for a documentary, he called me on Zoom with (his wife) Hadassah to say they wanted to proceed. It was based on our relationship and trust, but very much on how much he loved the movie about Begin. It was Begin who brought us back together.”

Lieberman was buried on March 29 in Stamford, Ct. Now, the documentary on the senator will head toward the final production steps without the main character ever seeing it.

The film is scheduled to screen for the first time on Aug. 28 at the Jewish Community Center-Chabad of Aspen.

“We need to determine how we want to treat his death, and we’re going to do that in discussions with the Lieberman family after shiva, and when the time is right,” said Schwartz.

“I spoke yesterday morning with his oldest son, Matt, who’s in the movie, who I’ve known since he was a little boy. I think he’s going to step up to play a role, and he’s been with us in terms of input and guidance. When she’s ready, we will talk to Hadassah.

“Just four or five days earlier we were talking about Joe and Hadassah coming into Aspen for the first screening of the documentary, and we were going to have Shabbat together.

“I’ve been in a fog ever since.”

Copyirght © 2024 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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IJN Staff Writer | [email protected]

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