President Bush has hired a new liaison to the Jewish community, appointing Jeremy Katz to take over for Jay Zeidman, the Forward has learned.
Katz will be the sixth White House liaison for the Jewish community since Bush took office in 2001. The new liaison started off at the White House as an assistant to chief of staff Josh Bolten and is currently serving as special assistant to the president on policy. According to sources in the Jewish community, he will take on the liaison duties and keep his special assistant post.
The White House has yet to announce the nomination, but Jewish activists have been informed of the upcoming change.
Unlike his two predecessors, Katz is an appointed officer — a staffer whose appointment was formally announced by the president — giving him more of a senior status within the White House.
The liaison to the Jewish community is usually seen in the White House as the point man to the Jewish organizations and groups around the country and as the main address for Jewish activists on issues of domestic policy. Foreign policy concerns of the Jewish community are usually addressed to the National Security Council staff.
Zeidman, the outgoing liaison, will be leaving his post shortly to join the presidential campaign of Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, where he will be part of the finance and fundraising team. He was appointed to the post in March, and his latest task was organizing the presidential Hanukkah reception last week and the president’s meeting with Jewish educators. His father is Fred Zeidman, who is chairman of the Holocaust Memorial Council and one of Bush’s prominent donors. An employee of a major Jewish organization said this week that the frequent turnover of liaisons to the Jewish community should not be seen as a sign of dissatisfaction from the individuals filling the job, but rather as a common White House practice.
Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Washington director of the American Friends of Lubavitch and one of the Jewish communal activists who maintains working relations with the White House’s liaison office, welcomed the nomination of Katz, stressing the importance of his ties with senior White House officials. “With Jeremy’s West Wing office and his appointment as special assistant to the president,” said Shemtov, “he’ll be only steps away from [former liaison and now deputy assistant to the president for domestic affairs] Tevi Troy and Josh Bolten, who can help him with his role.”
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.