Hadassah's Story

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Child of Holocaust Survivors Takes Stage in LA


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - When Hadassah Lieberman took the stage at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, it was the crowning moment for the woman born in a Czech refugee camp for Holocaust survivors.

It has been a half century since 3-year-old Hadassah Freilich arrived in the United States with her mother and father and little else, as they tried to rebuild a life all but destroyed by the Nazi war machine.

Now she finds herself at the epicenter of American politics, embraced as the wife of the man the Democrats hope will be the next U.S. vice president.

``It's hard to believe that it was only one week ago that Tipper (Gore) and I were in my hometown of Gardner, Massachusetts, to celebrate the newest adventure in our lives,'' she told Democratic delegates waving ``Hadassah'' signs of the campaign trip she took with Al Gore (news - web sites), the party's presumptive presidential nominee, and his wife.

Her speech came just hours after arriving in Los Angeles where her husband, Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, will make history as the first Jewish vice presidential candidate in the United States.

``We're on this incredible roller-coaster adventure,'' she said after she arrived.

Hadassah's ride began in Prague 52 years ago where her parents arrived after her mother, Ella Freilich, survived the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Dachau, and her father, Samuel Freilich, survived Nazi slave labor camps.

The Freilichs fled the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in the early 1950s and arrived in New York where they stayed with Mrs. Freilich's sister until the family moved on to the small Massachusetts manufacturing town of Gardner.

Samuel Freilich had been a lawyer and a rabbi in Czechoslovakia, but resurrected only his rabbinical career in the United States.

Along with her brother Ary, who was born in Gardner, Hadassah led the kind of childhood that many immigrant children experienced -- fitting neatly into the social life of American schools while growing up in the culture of an Eastern European, Orthodox Jewish household.

Ary Freilich told The New York Times that the Holocaust existed as an unspoken presence in the family's home.

``My parents did not speak of it often, but you don't need to speak of it often for the words to have an impact. The absence of relatives, the pictures of small children who never made it to be adults were images that were present in our home,'' he said.

Hadassah graduated from Boston University, receiving a master's degree in American government and international relations. Her next stop was Wall Street and a career in public relations and consulting in which she focused primarily on education and health care.

She married her first husband Gordon Tucker, who was a rabbi like her father and the former dean of the Jewish Theological Seminary. The couple had a son, Ethan, but they divorced and she joined the ranks of single working mothers.

In 1982, through the intervention of her former college roommate, Hadassah Freilich met the-soon-to-be senator from Connecticut who she calls ``Joey.''

The couple merged their families. Hadassah's son Ethan is a 22-year-old Harvard graduate and Cambridge fellow who is studying to be a rabbi. Lieberman's children by his first marriage include Matt, 32, a Yale graduate and lawyer with the I Have a Dream Foundation, and Rebecca, 31, a University of Pennsylvania Law School graduate who works at the Children's Aid Society in New York.

The Liebermans have a daughter together, 12-year-old Hana, and two grandchildren, Willie, 1, and Tennessee, 3.

-- Debra (Thisis@it.com), August 23, 2000


wow---ain't the 'providence-of-god-something!!

-- al-d. (dogs@zianet.com), August 23, 2000.

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