Federations leaders meet with Obama, top advisers (UPDATED)


About 50 leaders of The Jewish Federations of North America and Jewish federations across the country, met with President Obama and other top administration officials Monday afternoon at the White House.

The hourlong reception, scheduled after Obama had to cancel his scheduled Tuesday speech to the group’s General Assembly because he’ll be attending a memorial service for the soliders killed at Ft. Hood last week, featured short remarks from Obama. Mostly, though, it was an opportunity to talk and schmooze one-on-one with the president and aides such as chief of staff Rahm Emanuel (who will speak at the GA on Tuesday), top advisers David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag, Special Assistant to the President Dan Shapiro, Office of White House Public Engagement director Tina Tchen, White House Jewish outreach officials Susan Sher (also chief of staff to Michelle Obama) and Danielle Borrin.

Obama, who dropped by for about 30 minutes, said that the Jewish Federations of North America "perform every day of every week selfless acts of tzedakah," according to a person present at the meeting, and spoke about his experience with Chcago’s Jewish federation. He also made a pitch on health-care reform, talking about the importance of passing it and stating that he could "see the light at the end of the tunnel." He also said he looked forward to meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later Monday evening.

William Daroff, vice president of public policy and director of The Jewish Fedrations of North America’s Washington office, said that the group discussed "issues of concern to the Jewish community, including social services, foreign policy and the recession" with the president and his senior staff.

"To have the opportunity to speak one-on-one with the president and socialize with White Hosue staff is a once in a lifetime opportunity for which we are grateful," Daroff said. "It helped to move the ball forward on our public policy goals."

UPDATED: Here’s the press release The Jewish Federations of North America put out on the meeting:[[READMORE]]

President Obama Greets Jewish Leaders from The Jewish Federations of North America at White House

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and members of his senior staff met with Jewish leaders from across the country at the White House during a private reception this afternoon prior to the President’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Jewish contingent was comprised of representatives of The Jewish Federations of North America, which consists of 157 Jewish Federations and 400 network communities across North America. Earlier today, Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed The Jewish Federations’ General Assembly, which is being held in Washington with over 3,000 participants.

During his remarks, President Obama thanked the Jewish leaders for their work in their own communities, and recognized the Jewish Federations for the "countless hours of tzedakah (charity) performed every day of every week." The president also acknowledged his admiration and respect for the Jewish Federation system, beginning with his interactions and experience working for several years with members of the Chicago Federation and reminded the group how important their work is — not only to the Jewish community but the community at large.

President Obama also took the opportunity to address legislation currently moving through Congress to reform the nation’s health-care system and emphasized the importance of helping those in need. The President told the Jewish leaders it is important to ensure in a country as wealthy as the United States, everyone should have the best possible medical care.

"For the President of the United States and his team to open up his home to our organization and communal leadership speaks volumes to the importance that the Jewish Federations play in Jewish life and American social policy," said Kathy Manning, chair of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America.

"We were thankful to have an opportunity to directly discuss a number of our concerns with the administration’s senior team and look forward to continuing to reach out to them in the future to ensure the voice of the Jewish community is heard loud and far in Washington," said Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America.

President Obama was joined by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel; Senior Advisor David Axelrod; Senior Advisor Valarie Jarrett;  Peter Orsag, director of the Office of Management and Budget; Christina Tchen, director the White House Office of Public Engagement; Susan Sher, Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama; Dan Shapiro, National Security Council; and Danielle Borrin, White House Jewish Community Liason and Special Assistant to the Vice President.

Among those from The Jewish Federations of North America who met with the President were Kathy Manning, chair of the Board of the Trustees; Joe Kanfer, immediate past chair of the Board of Trustees; Michael Gelman, chair of the Executive Committee; Michael Lebovitz, national campaign chair; Alan Solow, trustee; Jerry Silverman, president and CEO; and William C. Daroff, vice president of public policy and director of the Washington office.

The Jewish Federations of North America represents 157 Jewish Federations and 400 Network communities, which raise and distribute more than $3 billion annually for social welfare, social services and educational needs. The Federation movement, collectively among the top 10 charities on the continent, protects and enhances the
well-being of Jews worldwide through the values of tikkun olam (repairing the world), tzedakah (charity any social justice) and Torah (Jewish learning.)

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