WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jack Lew, President Obama’s chief of staff, met with Jewish leaders in New York and fielded questions about U.S. differences with Israel.
Lew, who is an Orthodox Jew, met Feb. 17 with a group convened by the New York Jewish Community Relations Council on his way home for Shabbat.
According to meeting participants, he was asked about reports of tensions between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, particularly over Iran. Lew said differences existed but were blown out of proportion by the media.
He claimed sanctions were effectively squeezing Iran, and said Israel was sovereign in making decisions about its defense.
The participants at the meeting, which was chaired by Janice Weinman Shorenstein, the JCRC’s immediate past president, also pressed Lew on plans to lower the tax deductibility rate on charitable giving for people earning more than $250,000 a year from 35 percent to 28 percent.
Also discussed were a range of social issues, including medical care. Lew also told the group that the White House kitchen as of two weeks ago offers kosher options.
An administration official said further meetings were planned.
Obama has intensified outreach to Jews in recent months ahead of the November election.