Key Obama Backer, Confidante Alan Solow Tipped to Head U.S. Jewry's Top Body

Conference of Presidents nomination follows campaign tensions between Obama supporters, group official.

Chicago attorney, philanthropist and Jewish community leader Alan Solow, a key supporter and confidante of Barack Obama, has been nominated to chair the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, U.S. Jewry's most prominent voice in foreign and domestic policy issues.

The choice of Solow follows a period of political tension surrounding the 2008 campaign, in which Obama backers chafed at reported statements and decisions of the formally non-partisan Presidents Conference, and in particular, of its influential longtime executive vice-chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein.

"After considerable deliberation and consultation, the Committee unanimously decided to submit its recommendation of Alan Solow to be the chairman of the Conference of Presidents for a term ending May 31, 2010," said nominating committee head James Tisch, a former chair of the umbrella group.

"The nomination will be presented to the full Conference for a vote at a General Meeting in early January," Tisch said in a statement.

If confirmed by the conference, which encompasses 50 national Jewish groups across the political and religious spectrum, Solow will be working closely with Hoenlein, who sparked controversy during the campaign when the Conference invited GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin to speak at a non-partisan rally protesting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech to the United Nations. Hoenlein later bowed to pressure and rescinded the invitation.

Hoenlein has vehemently denied media reports that his actions and statements hinted at a preference for Republican candidate John McCain during the campaign.

Solow, who once lived in Obama's neighborhood, is one of Obama's most veteran supporters, having backed his campaign for the Illinois State Senate a dozen years ago.

"I said with a smile that he will be the first Jewish president," Solow was quoted as saying after Obama won the Democratic presidential nomination in late August. "He also has a deep understanding of issues that confront Israel and the Jewish community."

Solow currently chairs the Jewish Community Centers Association, and has served in a broad range of Jewish communal agencies on both national and local Chicago levels.

The Chicago connection also figures in Solow's acquaintance with Obama White House chief of staff-designate Rahm Emanuel.

"He's simply the best person for this job, because of his experience in Congress and in Clinton's administration, and because of his intellect," Solow said of Emanuel, adding that "his support of Israel fits with the president-elect's thinking."

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