U.S. President Barack Obama announced Monday the resignation of White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, who served in the post less than a year after replacing Rahm Emannuel.
Daley will be replaced by Jack Lew, the White House's budget director. He is also considered the most senior Jewish staff member in Obama's administration.
"Obviously this was not easy news to hear," President Obama said. "And I didn’t accept Bill’s decision right away."
"Bill told me that he wanted to spend more time with his family, especially his grandchildren," the president explained the decision.
Daley, who hinted at his intentions to resign for more than two months now, has claimed that he wants to spend more time with his family, and stressed that he plans on aiding Obama throughout his election campaign.
Lew, who was budget director under President Bill Clinton and was a deputy to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before taking the budget job back under Obama, has strong relationships with lawmakers. He was instrumental in negotiating the debt ceiling talks with Republicans last summer.
Lew is considered In November Daley handed over day-to-day White House management duties to another Obama aide, Pete Rouse, setting the stage for his resignation two months later. He was in the job for roughly a year.
A former businessman and U.S. commerce secretary, Daley took over as Obama's top aide last year with a mandate to improve relations with the corporate community and streamline White House operations. Relations with business remained rocky, however, and lawmakers complained that his outreach to Capitol Hill was minimal.
Lew is a close friend of Natan Sharansky from the days Sharansky's wife Avital spent in Washington DC lobbying for his release from Soviet prison during the 1980s.
On Hanukkah in 2011, Lew lit the National Menorah in Washington. Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Chabad representative in Washington who shared with Lew the crane that took them up to the giant Menorah, told "Haaretz": "When Lew comes to our shul sometimes, he comes as a humble individual participant that wants to be noticed primarily by ha-Shem, he doesn't want to create fuzz. In choosing Jack Lew to be his new White House Chief of Staff, The President will have a great, yet humble public servant, who has keen insight into some of the most complex policy issues. In addition, the fact that he is well regarded across the spectrum of the Jewish community is a bonus, even if not his core qualification".
Rabbi Shemtov is not worried about Lew being an observant Jew. "Everybody know is is shomer shabat, I doubt they'll bother him unless it's an emergency - but he can be at the White House on Shabes - he doesn't live so far".
The new joke, courtesy of Joshua Bolten, who lit the National Menorah in 2004, is that the ceremony brings good luck - he went on to become President George W. Bush chief of staff in 2006.
Lew, is also a qualified Chazan - and, concerned with the Jewish education of his children, he and his wife were among the founders of the Jewish Primary day School in Nation's capital.
The National Jewish Democratic Council's President and CEO David A. Harris said: “Throughout his time leading the Office of Management and Budget, Jack Lew has lived his Jewish values every day by working to strengthen the economy and ensuring that painful budget cuts do not strand vulnerable Americans. Mr. Lew has had such deep experience at the Department of State and the White House, and it's wonderful to learn that President Barack Obama has selected him to help lead this White House staff forward -- and to enact this President’s programs. We wish Jack a hearty ‘mazel tov’ -- congratulations -- and wish him all the best in this crucially important new position.”
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America also applauded the appointment of Lew as White House Chief of Staff. Over the past decade, he's been an active member of two OU member congregations: Congregation Beth Shalom in Potomac, Maryland and the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in Bronx, New York.
OU Managing Director Rabbi Steven Burg and Executive Director for Public Policy Nathan Diament said in a statement: “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. We wish Mr. Lew a hearty ‘Mazal Tov’ on his historic appointment and best wishes in his new role in serving the president and people of the United States.”
Individuals members of the congregations also praised him: "He is shomer mitzvot, including, of course, shomer Shabbat and shomer kashrut. And a wonderful guy", said one.
Another added: "He is really bright, talented, politically astute, honest and a true gentleman, among other qualities. He is also one of the most unassuming non-political person you will ever meet--with no airs or self-importance."
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