As the sun set over her Georgetown home two weeks ago, Hadassah Lieberman prepared for the Sabbath meal as she did every Friday, lighting candles and singing prayers with family and friends. But with just days left before Al Gore announced a running mate, this was no ordinary Friday. Shortly after the Liebermans broke bread, best friend Mindy Weisel broke the ice. "Could it happen?" she asked. Over a long dinner, talk swirled around the implications of a vice presidential bid. How would the Liebermans shield their 12-year-old daughter, Hana, from the spotlight? How would they protect their friends and their faith? Americans were surely ready, said Senator Lieberman, to embrace an Orthodox Jew for high office. Hadassah said simply, "I hope they are ready."
Given where she's come from, it's not surprising that she is slightly more reserved. Born in Prague to Holocaust survivors, Hadassah Freilich came to the United States with her parents as an infant in 1949. Her mother had been imprisoned in Auschwitz and Dachau. Her father, a lawyer and rabbi, escaped a slave-labor battalion on a march from the Russian front. Her maternal grandmother, Esther, after whom she is named (Hadassah is the Hebrew translation), died in the crematorium at Auschwitz. Her parents settled into a life of relative American comfort in Gardner, Mass., and instilled in their daughter the importance of a sense of gratitude and purpose in life. Still, for Lieberman, the possibility of her husband's becoming the country's first Jewish vice president is overwhelming. "I feel all of this history so acutely at this moment," Lieberman, 52, told NEWSWEEK as she prepped for the convention with Gore aides. "[My parents] were predestined to die in the Holocaust, and here I am in this place right now."
Friends say she is primed to embrace her new role. "She's the rabbi's daughter, after all. She's always been in the public eye in some form or another," says her younger brother, Ary Freilich, a New Jersey real-estate investor. …