Back in February, a few eyebrows were raised around the Jewish community when the White House announced it would not be naming a single person to the traditional position of "Jewish liaison," instead giving two people in the administration responsibilities for outreach to the Jewish community. Now, the White House has ensured that there won’t be any one person with the title of "Jewish liasion" by getting rid of the term "liaison" entirely.
On Monday, the Obama administration renamed the Office of Public Liaison the Office of Public Engagement, saying in a press release that the new office, "along with the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, will serve as the front door to the White House through which ordinary Americans can participate and inform the work of the President."
The press release also formalizes what was announced informally months ago — Susan Sher, associate counsel to the president and counsel to the first lady, and Danielle Borrin, special assistant for intergovernmental affairs and public engagement in the Office of the Vice President, are handling engagement with the Jewish community. While no one on the White House press release is directly linked to a specific ethnic or religious group, both women are listed as part of the office’s staff and have been working with the Jewish community since February. Here are their bios from the release, which specifically notes Borrin’s college internship with the United Jewish Communities:
Susan S. Sher, Associate Counsel to the President and Counsel to the First Lady. Sher most recently served as the Vice President for Legal and Governmental Affairs and General Counsel of the University of Chicago Medical Center and was responsible for all legal, government, regulatory, and community affairs at the Medical Center. From 1993 through 1997, Sher was the Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago. Previously, she was Associate General Counsel of the University of Chicago, and earlier, was a partner at Mayer, Brown & Platt, specializing in Labor and Litigation. Sher received her J.D. from Loyola University of Chicago School of Law, her bachelor’s degree from George Washington University, and attended Smith College.
Danielle Borrin, Special Assistant for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement, Office of the Vice President. Borrin most recently served as Deputy Press Secretary in the Office of Senator Joseph Biden. Prior to working in the Senate, she was a finance assistant for Unite Our States, the political action committee for which Biden served as the honorary chair. A native Atlantan with longtime involvement in the Jewish community, Borrin attended Washington University in St. Louis, during which time she interned for United Jewish Communities and the Biden Senate Office. She graduated magna cum laude in political science and international and area studies.
The release also trumpets the newly-named office’s interactivity, noting that it will use "special public events" and the Web site in order to collect information from the American people:
OPE will help build relationships with Americans by increasing their meaningful engagement with the federal government. Serving as the front door to the White House, OPE will allow ordinary Americans to offer their stories and ideas regarding issues that concern them and share their views on important topics such as health care, energy and education.
In addition to its traditional White House operations, OPE will now also focus on getting information from the American people outside the Washington beltway through special public events as well as activities on the web site. The office will have a strong on-line presence, including blog postings from OPE staff and other interactive elements.