White House chief of staff meets with Jewish leaders

Jack Lew, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, met with Jewish leaders in New York and fielded questions about U.S. differences with Israel.

Lew, an Orthodox Jew, met Feb. 17 with a group convened by the New York Jewish Community Relations Council.

According to meeting participants, he was asked about reports of tensions between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, particularly over Iran. Lew said differences exist, but have been blown out of proportion in the media.

He said sanctions are effectively squeezing Iran, and said Israel is sovereign in making decisions about its defense.

Also discussed were a range of social issues, including medical care. In addition, Lew told the group that, as of two weeks ago, the White House kitchen offers kosher options.

An administration official said further meetings are planned. Obama has intensified outreach to Jews in recent months ahead of the November election. — jta