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Many Jews Serve as Obama Campaign Chairs

At least seven of the Obama campaign’s 35 co-chairs are Jewish, including Alan Solow, a leading figure in the organized community.

Solow is identified on the list released early Wednesday morning as both a partner at the DLA Piper law firm and as a past president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“My appointment is a reflection of the importance he places on reaching out to Americans of all types,” Solow told JTA from Israel, where he is on a Presidents Conference tour. “The Jewish constituency is an important part of the American community. It is important in electoral politics and has been a mainstay of the Democratic Party.”

Solow said his role will be to make Obama’s case to the Jewish community on domestic and foreign issues; Solow will accompany the president when he speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual policy conference on March 4.

The speech comes as the White House and the Obama campaign have intensified outreach to the pro-Israel community. The early years of Obama’s relationship with Israel and pro-Israel groups were marked by tensions over his pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze settlement building, although more recently there has been close cooperation on defense strategies, particularly on confronting and isolating Iran.

Solow said he would also relay concerns back to the campaign.

“It’s always important for the president to have a good sense of what’s going on on behalf of voters of all different types,” he said. “We’ll advocate for the president, and we will listen and share that.”

Other prominent Jews on the list include:

  • Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce.com who has been listed on the Forbes 400 richest Americans;

  • U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), whose mother is a Holocaust survivor and who identifies himself as of Jewish descent;

  • Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff who acted as a liaison in that post to the Jewish community;

  • Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), a prominent civil rights liberal who likely will be tapped to make Obama’s case to a Democratic Party constituency disappointed by Obama’s retention of anti-terrorism practices introduced by his predecessor;

  • Penny Pritzker, the hotel heiress and Forbes listee who has backed Obama since the launch of his political career in the 1990s;

  • U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who represents a Chicago-area constituency with a substantial Jewish population and a backer of Obama for nearly a decade.

The list represents the campaign’s efforts to reflect the Democrats’ natural constituencies, including Hispanic, Asian-American and African-American political leaders and celebrities, as well as clergy, military, former Republicans and labor figures. Many of the co-chairs are from swing states.

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