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Area's Jewish residents downplay Lieberman faith

by Shawn Gainer

STAFF WRITER

Although some Clarksburg residents of the Jewish faith said they have positive feelings toward Sen. Joseph Lieberman, they also said their support has nothing to do with his religious affiliation.

Lieberman, D-Conn., was chosen by Al Gore to be the Democratic Party's vice presidential candidate for the 2000 general election. While Lieberman is an established politician described as respected by members of both parties, it was noted in national media reports that Lieberman is the first presidential or vice presidential candidate who is an Orthodox Jew.

"Regardless of his religion, he's an excellent choice," said Harry Berman, a resident of Bridgeport. "If he was a Methodist or anything else, it wouldn't matter."

Berman said he is a registered Democrat, adding that does not dictate his voting choices, either.

"That has nothing to do with it. I vote for candidates. I felt without any qualms all along I would vote for Gore because I like his program."

Berman said he believes Americans have become accepting of differences between people, and the presidential election of 1960, when John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, won overwhelmingly Protestant West Virginia by a wide margin, shows people choose candidates by other criteria.

"The vice president is chosen by the president because he's someone he can work with," he said.

Don Berman, who operates Mr. B's Big and Tall Men's Store in Clarksburg, also said religious affiliation has little bearing on his choices at the ballot box.

"I wouldn't support any man just because he was Jewish. Lieberman is a good man and he should be judged on his merits and what he wants to do. I really think the vast majority of people would make their choices based on other considerations, except some people in radical groups," Don Berman said.

Dr. Troy Stewart, who has taught political science at Marshall University for 28 years and is currently on leave of absence while serving as a member of the state Public Service Commission, said candidates' religious affiliations are not a significant consideration for most voters.

"I think that's accurate unless you would bring in someone from a really extreme group that practiced cannibalism or something," Stewart said. "I think people would have other things in mind, like economic, social and family values issues."

Staff writer Shawn Gainer can be reached at 626-1442.

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