Obama helps Jewish Chief of Staff keep Shabbat


It was always going to be difficult for President Obama’s Chief of Staff Jack Lew to keep Shabbat, but making his observance that bit easier is his special Shabbat helper – the president himself.

Mr Lew told New York Jewish newspaper The Forward: “I saw the president on many occasions on Friday afternoons look at his watch, and ask: ‘Isn’t it time for you to get going?’”

It was the president who first brought up the issue of Shabbat observance when offering Mr Lew the job. Mr Lew said: “He raised it with me saying: ‘I know that things are going to come up where there’s an emergency on Saturday or that you need to be here. I know you well enough to know that this is not an issue. I want you to know that I’m never going to ask you to work on Saturday if it’s not really necessary. It’s important for me that you know that.’”

The occasions on which he has been required to work on Shabbat have been “limited”, Mr Lew said, and when this does occur, he is normally escorted on foot to and from the White House.

Jack Lew is not the only Jew working close to the top of US politics. Both presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have hired lawyers, Robert Bauer and Benjamin Ginsburg respectively, to head the parties’ legal teams in preparation for a potential recount.

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