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Point Man at the White House is an Unknown to Jewish Groups

The White House once again has a full-time liaison to the Jewish community. President Clinton appointed Jay Footlik, a relative unknown in the Jewish community, to the post last week.

Footlik is responsible for outreach to the Jewish community, scheduling administration briefings and reporting on issues of Jewish concern.

Although unknown to the organized Jewish community, colleagues say Footlik’s connections at the White House will ultimately benefit American Jews.

“He’s not well known to the Jewish community, but he’s well known to the president,” said Steve Rabinowitz, a public relations specialist who worked in the Clinton White House and knows Footlik, who has been with the Office of Presidential Personnel.

“Frankly that’s more important to the community.”

In 1989, while a student at UCLA, Footlik helped to run a conference on Soviet Jewry in Washington. Mark Levin, the executive director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, said Footlik served as an unofficial liaison at the time between his organization and professor Steven Spiegel, whose think tank put on the conference.

Based on his performance in that job, Levin predicted that Footlik “will do a good job in this post.”

Jewish Washington reacted with mixed enthusiasm to the appointment of Footlik, who is originally from Skokie, Illinois.

“We all asked: `Who?’ when we found out about the appointment,” said one leader of a Jewish organization in Washington who would only speak on the condition of anonymity. “We’ll meet with him and see what he’s like.”

Footlik replaces Amy Zisook, another relative unknown who left the post in January.

Some Jewish organizations have been critical of the White House for the low profile the office has been given. Many expressed the hope that Footlik’s connections will give them more access to senior administration officials.

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