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Shabbat Comes to the White House

Shabbat Comes to the White House

Jacob Lew is appointed White House Chief of Staff. Is that good for the Jews?


First it was Joe Lieberman gaining notoriety as an Orthodox Jew running (unsuccessfully) for Vice President in 2000. Now comes the announcement of Jacob Lew being appointed by President Obama to serve in the powerful position of White House Chief of Staff.

Lew and his wife Ruth have a home in the Bronx, where they are members of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. They also have an apartment in Washington and attend Congregation Beth Shalom of Potomac. They have two grown children.

Lew observes Shabbat, which means that he leaves the office on Friday afternoons in time to get home before sundown, and for the next 25 hours does not use electricity, including the telephone.

Under the headline, "Lew Didn't Answer Earthly Authority," NBC News describes that while working for Clinton, Lew’s home phone rang one Saturday. He didn’t answer and the President’s voice could be heard from the answering machine, urging him to pick up the phone. Clinton said he understood the sanctity of the Sabbath, but that the call was important – and that “God would understand.”

Here’s the question: Is having an observant Jew in such a powerful position “good for the Jews”?

Is it good for the Lews?

Share your comments in the box below.

January 10, 2012

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 153

(132) Anonymous, July 22, 2016 8:58 PM

How do they go to synagogue in Potomac if they live in DC?
If they can drive can they pick up a phone?

(131) Anonymous, May 17, 2016 3:10 PM

Shabbos Issues

Clinton could have sent a messenger to Lew's home or come himself. Presumably, this type of problem has been discussed by Lew and Obama and a procedure for real emergencies worked out. Unfortunately, many people are self centered and believe that any problem they have has to be solved immediately. If someone has a boss like that it is better to change jobs than to try to solve an unsolvable problem.

(130) Anonymous, November 23, 2014 6:09 PM

Yes it's good

Of course it is good for the Jews to have an observant Jew as chief of staff. The mere fact that we are asking the question means there aren't enough Jews in government, such that we must consider in each case whether it will be "good for the Jews."

(129) Nelson Magedman, November 13, 2014 5:22 PM

Is he a mench?

I am not concerned whether he is an Orthodox Jew or not. I am concerned whether he is a mench or not. It appears that there are very few menchim in the Obama administration. This doesn't make the administration reputable.

(128) joseffa, November 3, 2014 8:44 PM

wonderful lets hope tht it gets everybody going

shabat would be wonderful if all the world caught on

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