“Insights from Washington Insiders: Reflections and Perspectives with Former White House Jewish Liaisons” Presented by JCRC
More than 250 people recently shared a unique opportunity to hear from two former White House Jewish Liaisons. Noam Neusner and Matt Nosanchuk who served, respectively, in the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, shared the stage on May 22, 2017 at B’nai Torah Congregation, in an evening program presented by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County.
“One reason I’m so glad to have these speakers here tonight is that we’re living in a time of such partisanship, yet here are two guys from very different administrations who talk so civilly about real issues,” said Rabbi David Steinhardt, Senior Rabbi at B’nai Torah Congregation, in his welcome to the audience. “They are an example to us all.”
Matt Kutcher, JCRC Chair, introduced the evening’s moderator, Matthew C. Levin, the Federation President & CEO, who “has known and worked with our guests for many years.”
“From sustaining the vital services of our own agencies to the security of the State of Israel, the Jewish relationship with the White House remains critical,” said Levin. “In the midst of our national preoccupation with politics, we have here two of the highest ranking White House insiders of the last decades to talk about their experiences, what they see happening right now, and how those in our community can best make their voices heard in Washington DC.”
Currently open, the White House staff position of liaison to the American Jewish community (a/k/a White House Jewish Liaison) is charged with serving as a presidential administration's voice to the community and gathering the community's consensus view on issues affecting it, for the benefit of White House policymakers.
While Neusner and Nosanchuk may have represented very different administrations, they found common ground on many issues facing American Jewish concerns.
Both found President Trump’s first-ever visit by a U.S. President to the Western Wall symbolically significant. They further agreed that the Saudi arms deal would not lessen Israel’s military edge, and highlighted the shared problem of Iran for Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Addressing his role in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Nosanchuk described “waking on the first day to the voice of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on NPR blasting the proposed agreement” – then “being told that my job was to talk to every Jew in America to gain support while mainline Jewish groups opposed it.” Neusner recalled fielding significant Jewish opposition in the Bush administration as well, particularly regarding domestic spending policies.
They also addressed American Jewry’s support for Israel. “I worry whether the Jewish community will be pro-Israel enough in the future,” said Neusner. “Among most Jews there is still great common ground in support of Israel. But a significant group on the left is sympathetic to the Palestinian point of view, and it is troubling when Jews are among them. And the less affiliated Jews are, especially younger ones, the less they are concerned with Israel. If people are concerned about Israel, they should focus on American Jewish affiliations and identity.” Nosanchuk added, “The growing disconnect between observance in the U.S. and in Israel is a problem – because the more Jewish Americans feel alienated from Israel, the more they will disengage.”
The importance and effectiveness of the Jewish voice in public policy was another area of agreement. “We’re small in numbers but all major movements have had Jewish involvement – from labor and civil rights on the left to supply side economics and neo-conservatism on the right,” said Neusner.
“The Jewish community has been in the forefront of so many movements,” Nosanchuk concurred. “I wanted the White House position because I knew the Jewish community would enable me to engage on so many important issues. We have always been good at organizing ourselves and have mature policy viewpoints.”
“We have witnessed a civil dialogue among people who disagree,” said Rabbi David Englander of B’nai Torah Congregation in closing. “In addition to their behind-the-scenes stories, their joint appearance is proof positive that representatives of different sides of the political aisle can, and sometimes do, speak to diverse audiences and also to each other.”
“The American Jewish community has always been active in the arena of public affairs,” said Englander. “The leadership and voice of the JCRC and programs such as this one remind us that all who are willing to engage in civil debate and discourse are welcome partners in the ongoing dialogue that is necessary for our robust democracy to function and thrive.”
The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) is the public policy, community relations and advocacy arm of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County. The JCRC helps to unite, support and direct the organized Jewish community in the greater Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Highland Beach areas. Rooted in Jewish values and informed by Jewish history, the JCRC also reflects the ideals of American democracy.
Noam Neusner, who served as White House Jewish Liaison with the title Special Assistant to the President for Economic Speechwriting during the George W. Bush administration, is currently a principal of the strategic communications firm 30 Point Strategies, to which he brings more than two decades of communications experience gained from working in the private sector and U.S. government, and as an award-winning journalist. He was President Bush’s principal economic and domestic policy speechwriter, and managed all communications and media relations for the Office of Management and Budget.
Matt Nosanchuk was White House Jewish Liaison under President Obama with the title of Associate Director, Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. He has worked in the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and State; the White House including the Office of Public Engagement and National Security Council; and the House and Senate on a range of domestic and foreign issues at the intersection of policy, law, advocacy, legislation, strategic communications, and outreach and engagement. He has also served as Counsel for Senator Bill Nelson of Florida.