Jewish Agency chief says Jacob Lew was key figure in Soviet Jewry campaign, has ‘warm place in his heart for Israel and Judaism’
“Jacob Lew is an Orthodox Jew who treats his religion very seriously. It is important for him that his children are raised as Jews,” Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said of the new White House chief of staff.
Sharansky was still a Prisoner of Zion in the former Soviet Union when he first heard of Lew, who had just received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard. “He worked as a senior policy adviser to House Speaker Tip O’Neill and was one of the most influential people in Washington, and every negotiation between the White House and Congress passed through him,” Sharansky recalled.
“My wife would travel to Washington to promote the struggle for my release, and he and the current director of the Rothschild Foundation in Jerusalem were the ones who fought for us in Congress,” he said.
The Jewish Agency chief said that following his release he would organize the activities in support of Soviet Jews from Lew’s home. “The largest demonstration in the history of the struggle, which brought some 250,000 Jews to Washington, was organized from his home,” Sharansky said. “His office was in charge of all the logistics ahead of the rally.”
Sharansky said Lew was one of the founders of a Jewish school in Washington and is also “very active in his synagogue.”
“Judaism is one of the key components in Lew’s life,” he said.
Sharansky said that while Lew is a “pure democrat,” he has a “warm place in his heart that is reserved for Israel and Judaism.”
Sharansky opined that Lew would not remain indifferent to Israel. “For him, it’s not just another country. His faith and bond with Israel and the Jewish people is an important part of his life,” he said.
The head of the Jewish Agency noted that Lew is extremely professional and “will remain loyal to the US government, but is also a man of negotiation and dialogue – between the Congress and the White House and between Republicans and Democrats.
“With tensions running high – he’s the ideal man to calm the spirits in the White House,” Sharansky argued.
While he refrained from predicting an improvement in Israel-US relations following the appointment of Lew, Sharansky said he is convinced that Lew’s presence will have a positive effect in the media sphere.
“He is a man who’s open to Israel and the Middle East and has extensive knowledge on the subject. He has worked in this field for many years, and it’s always good to have someone who cares and is in the know,” Sharansky noted.
“Lew is a great Israel supporter and has always taken upon himself to help us. The question is not whether he’ll be loyal to his boss – he will be. The question is whether Israel is only an abstract thing for him – another one of the players on the field that must be organized according to the boss’ wishes – or whether it’s more than that,” he added.