Orthodox Jewish Leaders Meet With President Obama


Today, a delegation of rabbinic and lay leaders from the American Orthodox Jewish community met at The White House with President of the United States Barack Obama and his Chief of Staff, Mr. Jack Lew. The meeting was organized by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (aka “the Orthodox Union”) through its Washington, DC office and its Executive Director for Public Policy, Nathan Diament.

Among the policy issues discussed with the President and his Chief of Staff were:

·U.S. policy toward Israel

·U.S. action to thwart Iran’s effort to obtain nuclear weapons

·Proposals for expanding federal aid in support of Jewish day school education

·The critical importance of protecting the religious liberties of faith-institutions in the United States

·Ongoing efforts to bolster the security of Jewish community institutions in the face of terror threats through the Nonprofit Security Grant Program

After the meeting, Dr. Simcha Katz, President of the Orthodox Union, stated: “We are deeply appreciative to President Obama and Chief of Staff Lew for meeting with us to discuss the President’s priorities and the Orthodox Jewish community’s values and interests.”

Rabbi Steven Burg, Managing Director of the Orthodox Union, stated: “We are honored that the Orthodox Union could play our role as the convener of this important meeting with President Obama in service to our community and the country in which we are blessed to live.”

Nathan Diament, the Orthodox Union’s Executive Director for Public Policy, stated: “Today, President Obama engaged with Orthodox Jewish leaders in a thoughtful and serious conversation about the values and interests of our community. We look forward to ongoing opportunities to work with the President on shared goals.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, in the Oval Office the Orthodox leaders presented President Obama with a framed reproduction of President George Washington’s letter to the Jewish community of Newport, Rhode Island — the first occasion upon which Jewish leaders and an American president exchanged their views.

Among those attending the meeting, were:

·Dr. Simcha Katz, President — Orthodox Union

·Rabbi Steven Burg, Managing Director — Orthodox Union

·Mr. Nathan Diament, Executive Director for Public Policy — Orthodox Union

·Mr. Yehuda Neuberger, Public Policy Chairman — Orthodox Union

·Mr. Allen Fagin, Senior Vice President — Orthodox Union

·Mrs. Shira Yoshor, Orthodox Union Community Network Leader, Houston, TX; Trustee, Yeshiva University

·Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, President — Rabbinical Council of America

·Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, Congregation Kehillath Jeshurun, New York

·Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, Boca Raton Synagogue, Florida

·Rabbi Benjamin Blau, Green Road Synagogue, Cleveland, Ohio

·Rabbi Avraham Shmidman, Lower Merion Synagogue, Pennsylvania

·Rabbi Shalom Baum, Congregation Keter Torah, Teaneck, New Jersey

·Mrs. Ellen Lightman, Board Member — Orthodox Union

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)


  1. Conspicously absent from the agenda was Pidyon Shvuyim: possible presidential pardons for Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin.

  2. “The critical importance of protecting the religious liberties of faith – institutions in the United States”
    Since WHEN are we promoting other peoples beliefs, ideologies, religions -I know they can and do that themselves – but most importantly we are taught by Torah to stick only with Yiddishkeit and leave the other stuff to the goyim – that includes their religious liberties.
    If the laws of the land apply to all its citizens who are of divergent beliefs,then when we Yidden apply to the rulers of the lands we live in, we can only ask for the religious liberties of Jews to be protected and extended – this in our name only,on our own behalf only,and wthout even mentioning the existance of “other religions or faiths” – or similar words or phrases.

  3. In a brief meeting with the president, the logical strategy is to focus on the 2 or 3 priorities of the frum tzibur which is exactly what this leadership group did by focusing on the U.S. position on settlements, the Iranian nuclear threat and the desparate need for some economic relief for hard-pressed parents sending their children to yeshivot. Issues like Pollard and SMR are important but don’t rise to the level of those other existential issues.

  4. Pollard, Rubashkin, and what about Jacob Ostreicher? Aren’t there enough people reminding the president about Iran?
    I see this meeting as a missed opportunity to discuss issues which directly concern LOCAL orthodox communities. Therefore, OU’s time spent at the White House could have merely been a photo-op or at the most, a show of Jewish presence.