Briefing with the White House Chief of Staff
Where in the world can a group of 15 Jewish men and women sit in the highest office of the land and discuss a dozen sensitive, challenging and timely concerns? Arguably there are a few places in addition to the United States of America – but it is certainly a right and privilege of American citizenship that I never want to take for granted.
This experience is exactly what transpired just a few days ago in the Roosevelt Room, across the hall from the Oval Office, in the White House in Washington, DC. Leaders of our Reform Movement and the Reconstructionist Movement were invited to a meeting with the White House Chief of Staff, Jacob Lew. I must confess I was hoping that President Obama would stop in and spend a few minutes with our group. Apparently, he has done that in previous meetings with leaders of the Conservative and Orthodox communities. When last minute travel plans took President Obama to Florida, my hopes were dashed. Nonetheless, armed with a folder of papers on the various issues that we would be discussing, I joined my colleagues in a taxi caravan from the RAC offices to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Let me tell you that following this meeting I was anything but disappointed – and in fact, I was and continue to be overwhelmingly proud of the leaders of our Movement and incredibly impressed with the President’s Chief of Staff, Jack Lew. Mr. Lew is an extremely thoughtful, articulate and intelligent man. He is well versed in the issues of our day, and a consummate professional in representing the positions of this administration. He is an excellent speaker, but more importantly, he is an superb listener. I also believe that he will accurately reflect the conversations that occurred in our meeting to both White House staffers and to President Obama. His interest and sincerity were readily apparent.
What did we talk about? Issues ranging from Israel’s security, concerns regarding Iran, the DREAM act and religious liberty were all addressed. In addition to myself, several other colleagues also discussed our concern for the civil rights of women and access to preventative health care and contraception. Specifically, we urged the Administration to consider new ways to ensure this access to health care for the hundreds of thousands of women who work for pervasively sectarian institutions. Currently, these institutions (some hospitals, for example) are part of the exemption that covers churches, synagogues and other religious entities. We do not want any of these women to fall through cracks in the system!
Watch the WRJ website, Action Alerts and this WRJ blog for more information and your opportunity to act and make your voice heard on these and many other issues. Thank you for the opportunity to represent Women of Reform Judaism. I am proud of all that we do and I truly believe that we are strong together when we join our collective voices.