White House taps Chanan Weissman to serve as Jewish liaison
Weissman, who serves as director for technology and democracy on the NSC, held the same role in Obama’s last year in office
Following the White House’s announcement in late July of several high-level religious appointments, President Joe Biden will appoint Chanan Weissman to serve as his administration’s liaison to the Jewish community, a White House official confirmed to Jewish Insider on Thursday.
Weissman, who currently works in the White House as director for technology and democracy on the National Security Council, also served as Jewish liaison during the final year of former President Barack Obama’s administration. He worked at the State Department throughout the Trump administration, serving as section lead for internet freedom and business and human rights until April 2021.
“We are thrilled to have Chanan Weissman serve as the White House’s liaison to the Jewish community,” the official told JI. “Chanan will provide strong leadership in the administration’s efforts to partner with Jewish leaders, organizations, and community members to combat antisemitism and hate; serve people in need; support the US-Israel relationship; and promote dignity, equality, and opportunity for all.”
“It’s very Joe Biden in that Chanan is very even-keeled, eyes-on-the-prize, not going to get rattled, not going to take the bait, and has very established chops in the community because he’s done it once before,” said Jarrod Bernstein, who also served as White House liaison earlier in the Obama administration. (Bernstein is also the co-host of Jewish Insider’s Limited Liability Podcast.)
Weissman already faces numerous issues where he’ll have to engage with the Jewish community, including the Iran nuclear negotiations. And, Bernstein added, “while the majority of the Democratic Party is still center-left, there are more people further to the left now, and more vocal people further to the left, and so he’s going to have to listen — find consensus with them where he can — but be a defender of the president’s agenda to some of our own people.”
“Chanan Weissman is a terrific selection for this role. He is an incredibly talented public servant who knows the Jewish community extremely well but also has a mastery of the policy process and how to succeed inside the White House,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. “We served together in the Obama administration and I personally can attest to his skills, smarts and integrity. I have no doubt that he will do an excellent job and ably serve our community and the country.”
After a June 2021 State Department call with leaders of American Jewish organizations, leaders of the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox movements expressed concern that they were not included at the event. In response, some called on the administration to name a Jewish liaison, a position that remained unfilled throughout former President Donald Trump’s tenure.
In April, Nathan Diament, executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, praised the White House for creating an Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, an office that had existed under Obama but not under Trump. “The White House is doing a very, very good job and a very, very proactive job in engaging with faith communities — not only the Jewish community, but faith communities across the board, and the nonprofit charitable sector across the board,” Diament told Jewish Insider.
After earning a master’s degree at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, Weissman, a graduate of the University of Maryland, focused on Yemen and Kuwait at the Department of Defense before going to Foggy Bottom to cover Bahrain. He served as a spokesperson at the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor before taking on the role of Jewish liaison in 2016.
In a 2016 interview with Hillel International, Weissman explained what serving as a liaison to the Jewish community entails.
“I liken the position to a bridge with lanes operating in both directions,” said Weissman. “I need to, at once, convey the president’s policies and positions to the Jewish community but also need to fully capture and convey the wide (and growing) range of perspectives from the Jewish community back to the decision-makers at the White House.”
A highlight for Weissman when he held the position five years ago, he recalled, was “briefing the president in the Oval Office moments before his pre-Rosh Hashanah phone call with hundreds of rabbis nationwide.”
Weissman’s tenure as Jewish liaison under Obama was brief — he was appointed in May 2016 and served until the end of Obama’s second term, in January 2017.
But that time coincided with two major events: the death of former Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres, in September 2016, and the Obama administration’s decision to abstain from a December 2016 United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlements in the West Bank.
The Washington Post first reported the news of Weissman’s appointment.
This post was updated at 6:08 p.m. on 8/5/2021.