WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated his current chief of staff, Jack Lew, to be treasury secretary.
Obama said that as a son of Polish immigrants and "a man of deep and devout faith," Lew knows that the administration's policy has to express American values.
Lew responded by thanking the US president, telling him that serving in his administration has allowed him "to live out those values my parents instilled in me."
Lew, the first Orthodox Jew to serve as White House chief of staff, has long been expected to be offered the job.
A former two-time director of the Office of Management and Budget, Lew has already participated in many of the tense fiscal negotiations with Republican leaders that are set to continue in Obama’s second term.
Lew, who does not work on Shabbat, has close ties with Jewish leaders in Washington and campaigned for Obama among the Jewish community during the 2012 campaign.
Lew told The Jerusalem Post
in the final days of the campaign that from his perspective, “The United States and Israel have never had a closer relationship working day to day on matters of national security at every level.”
In response, the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) lauded the nomination, saying Lew was "uniquely suited" to the role.
NJDC Chair Marc Stanley and NJDC CEO David Harris said of the nomination: "Lew is uniquely suited to take over at the Treasury given his extensive experience shaping the President's budgets in his capacities as both Chief of Staff and Director of the Office of Management and Budget."
Commenting on his Jewish heritage, the NJDC stated Lew has been a "prominent bridge" to the American Jewish community, as well as in "bringing his own Jewish values into public life."
Lew is to replace current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who has said that he intends to step down by the end of the month. Lew, who has held other positions requiring Senate approval, has won confirmation from the Democratic-majority body despite having rankled some Republicans in earlier negotiations.
In what is likely to be one of his last meetings with a foreign counterpart, Geithner hosted Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz this week in Washington. The two men agreed to create a bilateral forum to review the impact of sanctions on Iran and how to increase pressure on the Islamic Republic.
Steinitz stressed to Geithner that Israel believes additional sanctions are needed alongside a serious military threat to convince Iran to stop its nuclear activities.
Hilary Leila Krieger and JTA contributed to this report.
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