Jewish Leaders Welcome Ryan as House Speaker

U.S Jewish leaders welcomed the newly elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan as he took over the gavel from outgoing speaker John Boehner by congressional vote Thursday morning.

Speaking of Boehner’s contribution to the welfare of the Jewish-American community during his 25 years of public service, Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, told Jewish Insider: “John Boehner was a great legislator and leader to work with, as we did over the years, especially on issues the OU cares most about – the security of Israel and educational opportunity and choice.”

“The good news is that Paul Ryan is committed to these policies and values as well, and we look forward to working with him,” Diament added.

In a conversation with Jewish Insider on Thursday, William Daroff, vice president for public policy for the Jewish Federations of North America, said, Paul Ryan and I both started our political careers working for the late Jack Kemp.”

Kemp served nine terms as a congressman for New York’s 31st congressional district (1971-1989). Ryan began working for the former congressman in 1993 as a policy aide.

“I am hopeful that Speaker Ryan will lead House Republicans in returning to Kemp’s founding philosophy of “compassionate conservatism” and recognizing the importance of caring for the vulnerable,” said Daroff. “I am certain that the new Speaker’s longstanding support for a strong US-Israel relationship will continue to strengthen the bipartisan support for Israel that already permeates both parties in the House and Senate.”

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who’s poised to become the Democratic Senate Leader in 2017, hailed the new Republican Speaker as “a smart, well-prepared, and honorable man.”

“While his views, particularly on Medicare, Social Security, and tax and spending issues, are far removed from where the American people are, he’s the kind of person who realizes that to get anything done in this country, we can’t have a ‘my way or the highway’ approach,” Schumer said in a statement. “I look forward to working with him.”

In an Op-Ed distributed to local media, Ezra Friedlander, CEO of the Friedlander Group, expressed hope that Speaker Ryan “will be instrumental in unifying his own party, and in bringing the Republicans and Democrats together to find solutions to our nation’s problems, even if that means making difficult compromises.”

Ryan got less of a warm reception by the Jewish Democrats and a Bend the Arc, a Jewish social justice group, as reported by Jewish Insider on Wednesday, blasting Ryan over his promises to the members of the House Freedom Caucus.

“Ryan’s voting record and his right-wing politics were already far out of step with the American Jewish community. The Republican-controlled Congress is going to alienate Jewish voters even more under Speaker Ryan,” NJDC’s chairman Greg Rosenbaum told Jewish Insider.

The Republican Jewish Coalition welcomed Ryan’s election with a partisan twist as well. “The Obama administration has been antagonistic and hostile to Israel and the pro-Israel community. We can think of no one better than Paul Ryan to lead the effort to stand up against the dangerous and destructive policies of this White House and truly have Israel’s back,” RJC’s executive director Matt Brooks said in a statement. “As a stalwart ally of the pro-Israel community and a longtime friend of Israel, Paul Ryan will continue the strong support we’ve seen for Israel in Congress.”

Agudath Israel of America also mentioned Ryan’s pro-Israel record in a statement congratulating Ryan on his new leadership role. “Speaker Ryan has a proven and consistent record of support for Israel. He understands well the great strategic value of the US- Israel alliance and the two countries’ shared democratic values and historical ties. Perhaps more importantly, he has demonstrated understanding of the grave dangers Israel faces — the violence in the West Bank and Gaza, the scourge of terrorism, and the Iranian nuclear threat,” the Agudath Israel statement read.

The umbrella organization for Haredi Jews in the U.S also highlighted Ryan’s support for school choice, “where parents are recognized as the ones best suited to choose the most appropriate education for their children. And he has shown commitment to America’s charities and their good works by supporting the charitable deduction.”

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Vice President of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), offered a “mazel tov” to Ryan on behalf of the Reform Jewish Movement, expressing hope “that the selection of Speaker Ryan heralds a new era that ensures the chamber can meet its responsibilities to the American people.”

But Rabbi Pesner stated that Ryan’s tenure as chair of the Ways and Means Committee “gives us concern about his commitment to lifting up our nation’s most vulnerable, including senior citizens, children and persons with disabilities.”

“As he takes on new responsibilities on a broader stage, we hope Speaker Ryan will take a similarly broader view about investing in all Americans for the benefit of our nation overall,” he told Jewish Insider in an emailed statement.

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