WASHINGTON--Chicago Jewish leaders were among the 170 meeting with Obama White House officials last Friday to discuss domestic social justice issues.
The program is part of a summer drive organized by the White House Office of Public Engagement to host "Community Leaders Briefings," weekly events, according to the White House, intended to "bring together leaders and activists from communities all across the country for an opportunity to discuss common challenges and learn how the government can help them as they work to improve their neighborhoods."
The White House called the event the "Jewish Social Justice Roundtable."
The Chicagoans at the July 29 session were a delegation from the Jewish Council of Urban Affairs: Jane Ramsey the JCUA Executive Director; Irene Lehrer Sandalow, JCUA Director of Strategy and Jewish Affairs; Rabbi Bruce Elder, Senior Rabbi of Congregation Hakafa and JCUA President; Steve Keen, President,Dale Alan,Inc. and JCUA Past President; Gerry Keen; Nikki Stein, Executive Director of the Polk Bros.Foundation; Ira Azulay, Attorney, Azulay Seiden Law Group and JCUA Board; Leah Shefsky,Student and JCUA Or Tzedek teen leader; Rabbi Joshua Salter, Associate Rabbi, Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation (where the rabbi is First Lady Michelle Obama's cousin Capers Funnye) and Rabbi Michael Siegel, Senior Rabbi, Anshe Emet Synagogue.
Ramsey told me, "We felt these meetings were an exceedingly valuable opportunity to share with the White House our concerns for the domestic social justice agenda including issues such as affordable housing, immigration, and health care, including Medicare and Medicaid.
"We found the interchange with the White House officials to be productive and promising. We shared our deep concerns regarding the attempts in Congress to cut vital social programs, crucial especially for those most vulnerable in our society.
"We look forward to continuing the dialogue with the White House and having avenues to voice our concerns regarding our country's future. Finally, the presence of 170 Jewish leaders in meetings with the White House on these important issues sent a strong message that we are not a one issue community but rather our agenda is broad, and tied inextricably to the diverse fabric of the neighborhoods and cities in which we live."
Meeting with the group were Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement; Jon Carson, Office of Public Engagement Director, the National Field Director for Obama's 2008 campaign who managed Tammy Duckworth's 2006 general election House campaign; Michael Strautmanis, Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor for Strategic Engagement to Jarrett; Danielle Borrin, Associate Director, White House Office of Public Engagement who handles Jewish affairs; Cecilia Munoz, Director of White House Intergovernmental Affairs and Tina Tchen, chief of staff for First Lady Michelle Obama who is also Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.