Shalom Life | April 16, 2014

Obama Advisor Reveals Jewish Roots

Valerie Jarrett tells Jewish Council for Public Affairs conference her great-grandfather was Jewish.

By: Yitzhak Benhorin

Published: March 9th, 2011 in News » World

Obama Advisor Reveals Jewish Roots

White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett revealed Monday that she is of Jewish descent. Her announcement followed the departure of two advisors to US President Barack Obama, former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and senior political consultant David Axelrod.

Speaking on behalf of the administration at the annual plenum of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs in Washington, Jarrett, a close friend of the Obamas, surprised the Jewish community leaders by revealing her own Jewish roots.

According to Jarrett: “Many, many years ago, my parents hosted a Seder for a group of our Jewish friends, and it was here that my father first told me that my great-grandfather was Jewish. What a wonderful surprise for our friends, and for me! So Passover has always been a special holiday for me.”

Jarrett, who is African-American, was born in Shiraz, Iran to American parents who worked in the foreign country at the time. Her parents are both doctors – her father specializes in pathology and her mother in genetics. Together the two ran a Shiraz hospital for children as part of a US program to help developing countries.

However Jarrett did not follow in her parents' footsteps, opting to study law instead. Throughout her career she served as Deputy Chief of Staff for former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, during which time she hired Michelle Robinson, who was then already engaged to Barack Obama.

During the conference Obama's senior advisor said the story of the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt touched her heart. "In every generation, every Jew must see himself as if he had been liberated that day from Egypt," she said and added that as an African-American this moral holds a special meaning in her eyes.

Jarrett did not go into detail about her Jewish ancestry, but the Jews in the auditorium did not wait long to add the senior advisor to the family. JCAP President and CEO Rabbi Steve Gutow remarked that Jarrett has long been a friend of Jewish groups, but that he was surprised to hear that she was “part of the extended family.”

This article first appeared on Ynet and is reprinted with permission.

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