Lew, who is an Orthodox Jew, met with a group convened by the New York Jewish Community Relations Council that was coordinated by White House Director of Jewish Outreach Jarrod Bernstein on his way home for Shabbat.
According to participants in the meeting, he was asked about the U.S. relationship with Israel, Iran, and Jonathan Pollard.
According to Ezra Friedlander, CEO of the Friedlander Group, who participated in the meeting, Lew also revealed that when President Obama offered him the position of White House Chief of Staff he told him “that he is aware of his observance of the Sabbath and that while he can’t promise him there won’t be a crisis he will fully respect his observance.”
Lew’s appointment to his lofty new position received an overwhelmingly positive response from the Jewish community. At least one such response, however, created a certain degree of controversy, when, speaking on behalf of the Orthodox Union, OU Managing Director Rabbi Steven Burg and Executive Director for Public Policy Nathan Diament went on record saying “We commend President Obama for appointing Mr. Jack Lew as White House Chief of Staff. Our community takes great pride in the appointment of the first member of our community to this position of great responsibility.” Some saw in the statement by Burg and Diament an indirect insult aimed at Rahm Emanuel, who served as White House Chief of Staff before Daley, and who identifies as Modern Orthodox.
Originally from New York City, Lew is the son of a Polish-Jewish refugee. He attended public schools before earning his degrees from Harvard University and Georgetown Law School. Though he maintained a private law practice, he rose to prominence in several government positions, including deputy secretary of State, where, according to a report in National Journal, he “was essentially the manager of the entire department while [Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton concentrated on diplomacy.”