Pritzker, Froman tapped for top commerce posts

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama nominated Penny Pritzker for commerce secretary and Mike Froman for the U.S. trade representative.

Both candidates tapped Thursday have ties in the American Jewish community. The posts, subject to Senate approval, are Cabinet level.

Pritzker, 53, a scion of the family that owns the Hyatt hotel chain, is a billionaire real estate developer and a major donor to the Chicago-area Jewish federation.

Pritzker backed Obama in 2008 and 2012, and he considered her for the Department of Commerce post in 2009. But she withdrew her name from contention, reportedly because she was perceived as problematical at a time of financial and real estate failures and scandals.

She fundraised for Obama last year, but held back in her public profile for the campaign. A New York Times profile said her relationship with the president had become “complicated” because of persistent labor clashes with the Hyatt chain and Obama’s attacks on financiers and strained ties with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Obama, standing alongside Pritzker and Froman on Thursday on the White House lawn, emphasized Pritzker’s business credentials in explaining why he picked her to fill the slot vacated last summer by John Bryson because of illness.

“Penny is one of our country’s most distinguished business leaders,” he said. “She’s got more than 25 years of management experience in industries including real estate, finance and hospitality.  She’s built companies from the ground up. She knows from experience that no government program alone can take the place of a great entrepreneur. She knows that what we can do is to give every business and every worker the best possible chance to succeed by making America a magnet for good jobs.”

Froman, the deputy national security adviser for international economics, is a graduate of the BBYO youth organization. In 1980-81, he led the movement as its Grand Aleph Gadol.

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