Reactions to Obama’s picking Jack Lew, Orthodox Jew


Here’s a quick recap of reaction to the announcement that Jack "Hey, he’s an Orthodox Jew" Lew has been tapped to serve as the new White House chief of staff.

MSNBC recounts the time Lew played hard to get Shabbos-style with his then-boss Bill Clinton:

Once, while working in President Clinton’s director, Lew’s home phone rang one Saturday. He didn’t answer and a familiar voice could be heard from the answering machine, urging him to pick up the phone. Mr. Clinton said he understood the sanctity of the Sabbath, but that it was important that he talk to Lew. He even said, it was later reported, that "God would understand."

Lew later consulted with his rabbi, who said that taking an important phone call from the President of the United States would be permissible on the Sabbath under the Talmudic teaching that work on the Sabbath is allowed in order to save a life.

Rabbi Jason Miller predicts Lew would take Obama’s call.

Not sure how the Orthodox Union would posken on the issue… but the organization did lead all comers in wishing Lew a "hearty" Mazal Tov. And Vos Iz Neias makes it official with an article titled "Orthodox Community Takes Great Pride In Appointment Of Jack Lew," with positive quotes from the O.U., Chabad and Aguda officials.

The Forward’s Nathan Gutman provides some details:

Lew was widely viewed as a successful budget director during the Clinton years. He began as an adviser to the President on domestic issues, including health care reform and moved on to head the OMB, where he was credited with helping balance the budget and ending the Clinton administration era with a large national surplus. Following the 2008 elections, Lew joined the administration once again, initially as deputy secretary of state under Hillary Clinton and later back in his old position as budget director.

Lew is the first Orthodox Jew to hold this position. According to Jewish activists who are close to him, Lew keeps an observant lifestyle, eats kosher food and does not drive on the Sabbath. He does not wear a kippa (traditional Jewish skullcap) in his daily life. Lew is a member of an Orthodox synagogue in Potomac, Md.

Politico’s Maggie Haberman says: "It’s worth noting that this gives Obama a Jewish chief of staff at a time when he’s continuing to reassure Jewish voters over Israel."

JTA Archive Blogger Adam Soclof looks back at the first Jewish chief of staff… and wonders — will Jack Lew soon be know as "Lewberdog"?

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