Lieberman's Politics Blasted by Orthodox Jewish Group

By Jason Pierce | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

( - Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman, who is an Orthodox Jew, is now taking heat from an Orthodox Jewish organization, angry over Lieberman's votes on homosexual issues, abortion and pornography.

"Joe Lieberman talks and acts like an Orthodox Jew, but votes like a reform Jew," said Rabbi Yehuda Levin, spokesman for the New York-based Jews For Morality.

In JFM's statement, Orthodox Jews are warned about a "trap," in which members of the religion might be led to believe that Lieberman's political views are consistent with their own.

According to Levin, Orthodox Jews should "disassociate" themselves from Lieberman because of his vote to oppose a ban on partial-birth abortion, his support of legislation to give homosexuals the same status as minorities who are protected by certain affirmative action privileges, and his opposition to the 'Communications Decency Act', a bill intended to protect children from Internet pornography.

However, Nathan Diament of the Orthodox Union, which represents over 1,000 Jewish communities in the US, said Lieberman's voting record does not discredit him.

In the case of Lieberman's vote on abortion, Diament said Orthodox Jews believe that "if a mother's health is at stake, then an abortion may be permitted or required under certain circumstances." Lieberman's vote, therefore, is acceptable by Orthodox Jewish standards, according to Diament.

Diament went on to say Lieberman's record on life issues is better than what JFM portrays. According to Diament, Lieberman initiated the Pain Relief Promotion Act, which would restrict physician-assisted suicide, and promote more aggressive pain relief treatment, something, according to Diament, that the Catholic Church and other pro-life groups support.

Levin said Lieberman is just another example of someone using their Jewish background to further their careers while not upholding the teachings of their faith.

"We're seeing a phenomenon here that certain persons in the Orthodox Jewish community are using a stretch of their orthodox Jewish identity to further their personal goals," Levin said. "An orthodox Jew is somebody who not only follows the [Ten Commandments] but also applies the commandments in his profession, in his personal behavior. It is not enough to talk or preach about it but to follow it."

Levin also said Lieberman is disappointing as a lawmaker because he has shrugged off Orthodox Jewish teachings when voting and therefore gives a false impression of all Orthodox Jews.

"In the case of a lawmaker, if the person introduces, makes and supports legislation that runs counter to the moral standards found in the Torah, he is turning orthodoxy on its head," said Levin. "My problem is when Lieberman becomes the defining factor for millions in Christian America and Jewish America, who are not really familiar with Orthodoxy, [when they] look at him as a role model, and say, 'Hey, [Orthodox Jews] are just like everyone else,' when we are not."

"After a 12-year Senate voting record, the question that must be asked is whether Joe Lieberman is a positive moral source for the moral clime of the country or a negative one, by emoting words that are moral in their sound but not followed through," Levin said. "In terms of actually doing something with his legislative pen to address the problems, he has done precious little."

Diament said Lieberman is a good role model for Orthodox Jews, despite criticism from groups such as JFM.

"Joe Lieberman is a person who has shown a desire to balance religious observance and commitment, and to the degree he has done that, he is a good role model," Diament said.

The Gore-Lieberman campaign was not available for comment.