WASHINGTON – Jack Lew, who would be the first Orthodox Jewish secretary of the US Treasury, paid tribute to the values he was brought up with in accepting the nomination for the top economic post on Thursday.
Lew, who currently serves as White House chief of staff, recalled growing up in Queens dreaming of making a difference in the world.
“These dreams were nurtured in a home where the gifts of American freedom and opportunity were cherished and never taken for granted,” he told the crowd gathered for the White House event announcing his nomination.
“I will always be grateful to my parents for grounding me in the values that have remained central to my personal and professional life.”
US President Barack Obama also acknowledged this upbringing in introducing Lew.
“As the son of a Polish immigrant, a man of deep and devout faith… every decision has to be an expression of our values,” he said.
Obama also gave a very personal endorsement of the man who has become a close aide during the course of his first administration, in which he served as deputy secretary of state and director of the Office of Management and Budget before becoming chief of staff.
“I trust his judgment; I value his friendship. I know very few people with greater integrity,” he said.
The president called Lew’s anticipated move to the Treasury “bittersweet” because he would be leaving the White House, but added, “My loss will be the nation’s gain.”
He noted that he had sought Lew’s advice on “virtually every decision that I’ve made, from economic policy to foreign policy” during his past year stationed next to the Oval Office.
Obama also mentioned Lew’s ability to earn respect from both parties and forge compromises, which he achieved in earlier administrations.
But Lew ruffled feathers during last year’s negotiations over the debt ceiling, and some Republicans have indicated that he could face tough questioning and even some opposition from the Senate.
Still, Lew, who enjoys close ties with many in the Jewish community, is expected to be confirmed. His nomination was welcomed by several Jewish groups on Thursday.
The National Jewish Democratic Council issued a statement praising Lew for serving as “a prominent bridge to the American Jewish community while bringing his own Jewish values into public life.”
The Orthodox Union, for its part, offered Lew “a hearty ‘Mazel Tov!’”
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz sent Lew a letter on Thursday night, in which he wrote that "economic ties between the US and Israel have never been stronger." Steinitz said that Lew has deep ties with Israel and is one of the two people responsible for Israel becoming a member of the OECD.
Jpost.com staff contributed to this report