Avi Berkowitz, Kushner loyalist, not seen as Greenblatt replacement

While Greenblatt was a staunch supporter of Israel and outspoken critique of the Palestinian Authority, Berkowitz is first and foremost a Kushner loyalist for the past eight years.

By
September 9, 2019 00:11
3 minute read.
Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu July 31, 2019.

Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu July 31, 2019.. (photo credit: MATTY STERN/US EMBASSY JERUSALEM)

WASHINGTON – Jason Greenblatt’s surprising departure brought Avi Berkowitz to the front of the stage.

A 30-year-old Orthodox Jew, Berkowitz started his work at the White House as an assistant for Jared Kushner, but gradually received more responsibilities. In the past few months, he traveled with Kushner and Greenblatt abroad on many occasions, and participated in meetings with world leaders. However, he kept a low profile and stayed away from the spotlight, and is expected to continue to shun the limelight even in his new position.

While Greenblatt was a staunch supporter of Israel and outspoken critique of the Palestinian Authority, Berkowitz is first and foremost a Kushner loyalist for the past eight years.

The two met in 2011 at a basketball match in Phoenix as a part of a Passover program. Berkowitz liked playing basketball, especially after living in Jerusalem from 2007-2008, when he went to the Kol Torah Yeshiva in Bayit Vagan. Here and there, you could see him playing in Sacher Park’s open court.

Following their 2011 meeting, Berkowitz sent a few emails to Kushner asking for a job. Kushner hired him to work in his real estate venture and at the New York Observer, a newspaper he owned that time.

Berkowitz went to Queens College where he majored in English, and then to Harvard Law School, where his interest in politics started to change gradually. At some point, he taught a class in undergrad school that was called “The Road to The White House,” in which Young Berkowitz lectured on the American political system, the different branches, and the separation of powers.

By 2016 he completed his bar exam and received an offer to join a law firm. At that point, Kushner offered Berkowitz to stay on his team and help with the presidential campaign. Berkowitz agreed, leaving the law firm offer behind. After Trump’s victory, he was kept on Kushner’s team.


In a 2017 Business Insider profile, Hope Hicks, a White House spokeswoman, told the news outlet that Berkowitz’s role was primarily administrative and involved assisting Kushner with daily logistics like getting coffee or coordinating meetings. However, it seems like he went a long way from getting coffee and coordinating meetings to become an integral part of the team.

Many skeptics raised eyebrows when Berkowitz was promoted. Martin Indyk, for example, tweeted that “If Avi Berkowitz is Jason Greenblatt’s replacement, it’s a considerable downgrade in the position. He’s Kushner’s 29-year-old assistant. Nice guy but does not have the weight or experience of Trump’s former real estate lawyer.”

Berkowitz, from his part, does not see himself as Greenblatt’s successor but as a member of a team that will now have to step up and take more responsibility, a person familiar with the peace team told the Post.  

As Greenblatt's departure became finalized, the team decided to put out an announcement explaining that Berkowitz will play a more significant role once Greenblatt leaves the White House. However, Berkowitz’s new role is still under consideration, and it is not yet clear what his responsibilities are going to be.

“He worked on every element (of the plan) with Jared and Jason,” the source said. “They trust each other, and the fact is that nothing leaked from the peace team. There’s not going to be any change in the working methods after Jason’s departure. Maybe it’s a change in people’s mind because they were unaware of [what went on behind the scenes],” the source added. “But in reality, Avi will be as involved as he was yesterday or the day before that. People can tweet whatever they want.”


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