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Washington - White House Chief Of Staff Tells How He Balances Obama & Orthodoxy

Published on: October 25, 2012 12:10 PM
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(FILE) A file photograph showing US President Barack Obama (R), announces he has named Jacob J. 'Jack' Lew, left, to serve as Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, on 13 July 2010.  EPA(FILE) A file photograph showing US President Barack Obama (R), announces he has named Jacob J. 'Jack' Lew, left, to serve as Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, on 13 July 2010.  EPA

Washington - White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew, an Orthodox Jew, recently spoke with The Forward (http://bit.ly/RiAgLT) about how he balances his demanding work schedule and his religious lifestyle. He said the president is particularly mindful of the time on Friday afternoons and respects him for adhering to his beliefs. “I saw the president on many occasions on Friday afternoons look at his watch, and ask: ‘Isn’t it time for you to get going?’” Mr. Lew said, “or, ‘Why are you still here?’”

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In fact, it was the president who referenced Mr. Lew’s observance when he offered Mr. Lew the chief of staff position. “He raised it with me saying: ‘I know that things are going to come up where there’s an emergency on Saturday or that you need to be here. I know you well enough to know that this is not an issue. I want you to know that I’m never going to ask you to work on Saturday if it’s not really necessary. It’s important for me that you know that.’”

For his part, Mr. Lew sought to reassure the president about his commitment, saying, “I’ve made it clear that you don’t have to wonder if there’s a crisis whether I’m available. If you need me, I don’t even consider it a violation of my faith to be doing the things I need to do to make sure people are not in harm’s way.”

On Friday afternoons, Mr. Lew leaves the White House before Shabbos begins and does not work on Saturdays. Mr. Lew says he has received rabbinical permission to work on Shabbos when there is a true need to do so, but admits such a necessity has been “limited.” In those instances, the chief of staff usually walks to and from the White House.

This is not the first time Mr. Lew has had to balance observing Shabbos and serving in high-level positions. As budget director for former President Bill Clinton, he did not work from sundown on Friday until Saturday night, but made himself available for true emergencies.

“I have found that if you are true to your own beliefs, people respect it,” Mr. Lew said. “I’ve found that President Obama considers it a sign of strength and value that there is something in my life that reflects principles that I adhere to.”



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Read Comments (32)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Oct 25, 2012 at 12:19 PM brooklyn mom Says:

Very nice, Mr Lew, but how do you feel about the way he treats Israel? How do you feel about gay marriages, abortions and other liberal feelings as an Orthodox Jew? If the Torah is truly your guide, you would have refrained from taking this position with O to begin with, based on those policies. You have no business being in the O White House.

2

 Oct 25, 2012 at 12:22 PM Liepa Says:

I know I might get negative response on this, but here goes.
If the president can hire a religous Jew as his right hand man, on top of all the other Jews he's surrounded himself with, maybe he 'aint so bad as everyone makes him out to be! Something to think about now that the presidential election is upon us.

3

 Oct 25, 2012 at 12:27 PM yosefben Says:

Regardless of who I might vote for I think Mr Lew's actions are a great kiddush Hashem for all of us.

4

 Oct 25, 2012 at 12:27 PM MAYERFREUND Says:

It is just another proof that our president is very respectful to Jews and specially to an Orthodox Jew.

5

 Oct 25, 2012 at 12:45 PM sasregener Says:

kol hakovod to LEW

6

 Oct 25, 2012 at 12:55 PM Anonymous Says:

Yes while President Obama is a liberal, he is a real mentsch. Can't deny that. Sometimes people forget that in a heated election.

7

 Oct 25, 2012 at 01:11 PM ayinglefunadorf Says:

Reply to #1  
brooklyn mom Says:

Very nice, Mr Lew, but how do you feel about the way he treats Israel? How do you feel about gay marriages, abortions and other liberal feelings as an Orthodox Jew? If the Torah is truly your guide, you would have refrained from taking this position with O to begin with, based on those policies. You have no business being in the O White House.

"You have no bussiness being in the White House" Are you saying the we orthodox jews should never vote at all if we disagree with Democrat or Republican platform.

8

 Oct 25, 2012 at 01:28 PM ayinglefunadorf Says:

Reply to #1  
brooklyn mom Says:

Very nice, Mr Lew, but how do you feel about the way he treats Israel? How do you feel about gay marriages, abortions and other liberal feelings as an Orthodox Jew? If the Torah is truly your guide, you would have refrained from taking this position with O to begin with, based on those policies. You have no business being in the O White House.

In the past history of USA politics Republican Presidents always all the times were agains Israel more than the Democrats. Remember President Bush Road Map the first time trying to force Israel to divide Jerusalem. President D Eisenhower (Republican) forced Israel to withdraw from Sinai. Bush/Baker witholding 10 billion loan guaranties untill stop building on the West Bank/Jerusalem. President Bush forcing Israel to allow free election by the Palestinians giving us Hamas rockets today etc. Now we have a President who surrounded himself with more Yidden than all the Presidents in USA history combined about 8 jews some orthodox, Seder in the White House, single handedly stopped the creation of a Palestinian State, more military cooperation with Israel than ever before, no wonder he will get iy"h 80-90% of the frumme vote.

9

 Oct 25, 2012 at 01:34 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
brooklyn mom Says:

Very nice, Mr Lew, but how do you feel about the way he treats Israel? How do you feel about gay marriages, abortions and other liberal feelings as an Orthodox Jew? If the Torah is truly your guide, you would have refrained from taking this position with O to begin with, based on those policies. You have no business being in the O White House.

The President's view on abortion is actually "more" in line with Judaism than some of the right wingers who want it totally banned including in cases of rape and incest.

Kol hokoved to Mr. Lew for his Kidush Hashem!

10

 Oct 25, 2012 at 01:53 PM Peter Says:

While I admire Mr. Lew and commend President Obama for hiring so many Jews, I cannot help but wonder about the timing of this article, so close to the election. This story was news when Mr. Lew was first appointed, but that was a long time ago. It is no longer news, but instead pandering for Jewish votes days before a very close election.

11

 Oct 25, 2012 at 01:58 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Liepa Says:

I know I might get negative response on this, but here goes.
If the president can hire a religous Jew as his right hand man, on top of all the other Jews he's surrounded himself with, maybe he 'aint so bad as everyone makes him out to be! Something to think about now that the presidential election is upon us.

I agree with you. I think Obama has done fine for Israel too. For some reason he just does not have the right PR when it comes to Israel. Read the op-ed in Wednesday's NY Times by the former head of the Mossad who pointed out all the pressure REPUBLICAN presidents placed on Israel throughout the past 20 years.

12

 Oct 25, 2012 at 02:05 PM volfie Says:

sorry # 8 but your 80-90 % vote for him because his leftist-socialist-communist
programs which keep giving these parasites more of the hard working class money.it's redistribution of wealth ,stupid !

13

 Oct 25, 2012 at 02:07 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
brooklyn mom Says:

Very nice, Mr Lew, but how do you feel about the way he treats Israel? How do you feel about gay marriages, abortions and other liberal feelings as an Orthodox Jew? If the Torah is truly your guide, you would have refrained from taking this position with O to begin with, based on those policies. You have no business being in the O White House.

I personally am more comfortable with Obama and the Democrat's view on abortion and Israel than the Republicans.. whose rigidness of view on abortion scares me. As far as gay marriage, no one is forcing you to be gay and marry gay. People will be publicly having gay partners regardless if "gay marriage" is legal or not - so your children will see it and know about it no matter what, unless YOU keep them insulated from what you do not want them to know. I am more comfortable with someone else who has the attitude of "live and let live" than with those who want everyone to live exactly the way they do. I think that more of the Democrats views are in line with what the Torah says - taking care of the poor, needy, orphans, widows etc.

14

 Oct 25, 2012 at 02:11 PM Kzler Says:

Reply to #8  
ayinglefunadorf Says:

In the past history of USA politics Republican Presidents always all the times were agains Israel more than the Democrats. Remember President Bush Road Map the first time trying to force Israel to divide Jerusalem. President D Eisenhower (Republican) forced Israel to withdraw from Sinai. Bush/Baker witholding 10 billion loan guaranties untill stop building on the West Bank/Jerusalem. President Bush forcing Israel to allow free election by the Palestinians giving us Hamas rockets today etc. Now we have a President who surrounded himself with more Yidden than all the Presidents in USA history combined about 8 jews some orthodox, Seder in the White House, single handedly stopped the creation of a Palestinian State, more military cooperation with Israel than ever before, no wonder he will get iy"h 80-90% of the frumme vote.

Welll said

15

 Oct 25, 2012 at 02:12 PM Kzler Says:

Reply to #10  
Peter Says:

While I admire Mr. Lew and commend President Obama for hiring so many Jews, I cannot help but wonder about the timing of this article, so close to the election. This story was news when Mr. Lew was first appointed, but that was a long time ago. It is no longer news, but instead pandering for Jewish votes days before a very close election.

Peter are you an apostle

18

 Oct 25, 2012 at 02:50 PM Kosher_Ham Says:

I remember when Obama was an Illinois State Senator and sharing a hotel room with Ira Silverstein in Illinois' capital, Springfield, IL. Obama was Ira's Shabbos goy during that stay. Ira's wife is now the 50th Ward Alderman in the City of Chicago (where almost all the frum yiddem live) & Ira is running unopposed in this November's election.

19

 Oct 25, 2012 at 02:57 PM MAYERFREUND Says:

Reply to #12  
volfie Says:

sorry # 8 but your 80-90 % vote for him because his leftist-socialist-communist
programs which keep giving these parasites more of the hard working class money.it's redistribution of wealth ,stupid !

Hello Mr volfie
You sound like you are a boss and a very rood one because you write like one, naming people parasites.
please explain who is the leftist-socialist-communist? lets take a hard working computer tech that works for a company and people on the street ask him to come and fix their computer. he does it on his own time and they pay him. then his boss finds out about it and tells him you have to give that money and i will give you 25% of that. who is the leftist-socialist-communist the worker or the boss? did the boss do the work or the worker? if the boss wants money why can't he go to work just like his worker. In my opinion mostly the bosses are the leftist-socialist-communist and the parasites.

20

 Oct 25, 2012 at 04:00 PM ayinglefunadorf Says:

Reply to #12  
volfie Says:

sorry # 8 but your 80-90 % vote for him because his leftist-socialist-communist
programs which keep giving these parasites more of the hard working class money.it's redistribution of wealth ,stupid !

"Socialist-communist programs its redistribution of wealth" You are correct. But it not started with Pres Obama. It Started in Sinai thousands of years ago. Its called Mayser=Redistribution of wealth to Kohanim, Poor etc.

21

 Oct 25, 2012 at 04:17 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #9  
Anonymous Says:

The President's view on abortion is actually "more" in line with Judaism than some of the right wingers who want it totally banned including in cases of rape and incest.

Kol hokoved to Mr. Lew for his Kidush Hashem!

Judaism doesnt (outright) make a heter in the case of

22

 Oct 25, 2012 at 04:26 PM Kzler Says:

Reply to #19  
MAYERFREUND Says:

Hello Mr volfie
You sound like you are a boss and a very rood one because you write like one, naming people parasites.
please explain who is the leftist-socialist-communist? lets take a hard working computer tech that works for a company and people on the street ask him to come and fix their computer. he does it on his own time and they pay him. then his boss finds out about it and tells him you have to give that money and i will give you 25% of that. who is the leftist-socialist-communist the worker or the boss? did the boss do the work or the worker? if the boss wants money why can't he go to work just like his worker. In my opinion mostly the bosses are the leftist-socialist-communist and the parasites.

Not smart enough to be a boss and too rude and coarse. He probably is one of those parasites who were lucky to have father or father-in-law who provided a shulchan aruch

23

 Oct 25, 2012 at 04:46 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Liepa Says:

I know I might get negative response on this, but here goes.
If the president can hire a religous Jew as his right hand man, on top of all the other Jews he's surrounded himself with, maybe he 'aint so bad as everyone makes him out to be! Something to think about now that the presidential election is upon us.

Maybe that's his way of trying to get the Jewish vote.

24

 Oct 25, 2012 at 05:38 PM ayinglefunadorf Says:

Reply to #23  
Anonymous Says:

Maybe that's his way of trying to get the Jewish vote.

"Maybe thats his way to get the Jewish vote" He has the jewish vote. The orthodox for sure. New York, New Jersey, Conn. Mass. ,California where most of the yidden live are not contested Democratic voting states. 100% of the electorate goes to Obama. He doesnt have to hire 8 jewish top assistants to get the votes he has. You dont explain why other USA President didnt hire more yidden. Its Poset (Simple) the President likes us. Jews always voted Democrat. Its our valeus. No wonder that every single Frumm jewis politician in the history of the USA 200 year was elected as a democrat. Dov Hikind, Sheldon Silver, Simche Felder, Senator J Liberman etc.

25

 Oct 25, 2012 at 07:15 PM Anonymous Says:

what a sellout...

26

 Oct 25, 2012 at 07:15 PM Anonymous Says:

the biggest oxymoron is honest politician..

27

 Oct 25, 2012 at 07:15 PM RachelJD Says:

Reply to #12  
volfie Says:

sorry # 8 but your 80-90 % vote for him because his leftist-socialist-communist
programs which keep giving these parasites more of the hard working class money.it's redistribution of wealth ,stupid !

You are aware, arent you of the village of Kiryas Joel where the poverty rate is wo high that almost everyone qualifies for federal assistance programs like food stamps and Section 8. So remember that before you shoot off your mouth.
The Torah commands us to help the poor, not oppress the widow, the orphan. Yet Romney/Ryan want to gut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Programs that help the elderly. Medicare and SS are called "entitlement" programs. Heck YEA, people are entitled to this. They paid into it all their working lives.

28

 Oct 25, 2012 at 07:50 PM Kzler Says:

Reply to #27  
RachelJD Says:

You are aware, arent you of the village of Kiryas Joel where the poverty rate is wo high that almost everyone qualifies for federal assistance programs like food stamps and Section 8. So remember that before you shoot off your mouth.
The Torah commands us to help the poor, not oppress the widow, the orphan. Yet Romney/Ryan want to gut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Programs that help the elderly. Medicare and SS are called "entitlement" programs. Heck YEA, people are entitled to this. They paid into it all their working lives.

Sheker chachein, the biggest fault with this website is that people can make honest criticism but as # 27 can post dishonest statement and falsehood without consequences. Kriyat Joel is a prime example including the crystal chandeliers

29

 Oct 25, 2012 at 08:15 PM Kzler Says:

Reply to #12  
volfie Says:

sorry # 8 but your 80-90 % vote for him because his leftist-socialist-communist
programs which keep giving these parasites more of the hard working class money.it's redistribution of wealth ,stupid !

Horse manure has its place on a farm field but is not verifying posting

30

 Oct 25, 2012 at 08:15 PM curious Says:

Reply to #2  
Liepa Says:

I know I might get negative response on this, but here goes.
If the president can hire a religous Jew as his right hand man, on top of all the other Jews he's surrounded himself with, maybe he 'aint so bad as everyone makes him out to be! Something to think about now that the presidential election is upon us.

I and many others don't think he is "bad." I just think he is a lousy commander and chief.

31

 Oct 25, 2012 at 09:30 PM Ivrianochi Says:

This has been a trick of many sonei yisrael to surround themselves with other yidden to make things look good! Don't be fooled

32

 Oct 25, 2012 at 11:05 PM si girl Says:

I still cannot overcome Obama's association with J. Wright for 20 years. and I think he makes huge mistakes in foregn policy.

33

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