In the last two weeks I have been fortunate to sit in on meetings President Obama and White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew were holding with members of the Conservative and Orthodox communities to discuss issues of importance. Covering topics from education to foreign policy, the clergy and lay leadership outlined key concerns and together, we worked toward the goal of collectively finding solutions to our nation's and our world’s problems. These meetings are part of a continuing dialogue with various strands of the American Jewish community.
At the meeting with Conservative Jewish leaders, the President was given the traditional blessing for heads of state by Rabbinical Assembly Executive Vice President Julie Schonfeld. The role of faith leaders in communities across the country was discussed and celebrated, with the President speaking to the important role these clergy play in our everyday lives. From the social safety net to advocacy on issues around the globe, leaders of religious movements have helped to make this a “more perfect union.”
The meeting with Orthodox leadership covered many topics, as well, including how the government and faith leaders can work together to ensure that all students get access to the services they are entitled to by law. The group discussed the President’s unshakeable support for Israel and our commitments to peace and security for Israel and the entire Middle East. The group finished its meeting with a brief visit to the Oval Office, where they presented the President with a copy of George Washington’s letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Rhode Island written in 1790.
Jarrod Bernstein is the Director of Jewish Outreach in the Office of Public Engagement.