By Mike Wagenheim, JNS
Shelley Greenspan’s resume has ranged from Capitol Hill to the private sector, presidential election and nonprofit organizations. She has worked for AIPAC and Amazon and advertised for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.
Late last month, the Jewish advocacy and outreach veteran was named the White House liaison to the Jewish community, replacing Chanan Weissman.
“It’s rare to find a position that sits squarely at the center of the Venn diagram of who you are. I am Jewish. I am an American. I’m a civil servant,” Greenspan told JNS in her first comments to the media since taking on her new role.
Greenspan, a native of Miami Beach, Fla., came into the White House this summer as a policy adviser on partnerships and global engagement on the National Security Council. She leads public-private partnerships for the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs, a new program to support women entrepreneurs around the world. Before that, she worked as a civil servant in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Greenspan told JNS that strengthening US-Israel ties is her priority.
“Last month, President Biden arrived in Israel for the tenth visit of his career. Addressing Israel’s President and Prime Minister, he declared, “You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist.” Truer words have seldom been spoken,” said Greenspan, who insists the directive comes straight from above.
“President Biden has a lifelong association with [Israel], and his mandate to all of us is to ensure that we do everything in our power to strengthen Israel’s security, prosperity and integration into the larger region. That remains a priority for this administration and I am committed to advancing that priority in my new role,” she said.
Greenspan helped lead a national activist group called “Jewish Women for Joe” in the 2020 presidential election. She also served on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, providing research and quick response to Clinton’s State Department records.
In addition to strengthening US-Israel ties, Greenspan said she will focus on rooting out hatred of Jews.
“The President and the Vice President [Kamala Harris] know in her Neshama, in her soul, that attacks on the Jewish community are a blow to the soul of our nation and the values we stand for. Regardless of its source or justification, as the President said, we must and will condemn this prejudice at every turn alongside other forms of hatred,” Greenspan said.
Greenspan has extensive experience on Capitol Hill, where he spent three years at AIPAC leading legislative projects in the Senate and House Foreign Affairs Committees. She was also a board member of the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Women International. In February, she helped found Jewish Democratic Women for Action, which aims to expand the Jewish public ahead of November’s midterm elections.
“As President Biden said, we must focus on the ties that bind us together and not tear us apart.” Each of us has a role to play in building bridges in our communities across the country and around the world. A focus on shared values and shared interests is essential to effective policy making,” Greenspan said.
“I grew up in South Florida. I attended an Orthodox day school, a Conservative summer camp, and a Reformed synagogue. I consider myself a Jewish mutt. I love and embrace the diversity and passion of this community,” she said.
The Jewish liaison position often requires the involvement of sections of American Jewry opposed to administrative policies on a variety of issues and a deep understanding of the intricacies that characterize a range of Jewish denominations and groups. Greenspan told JNS she will continue with the regular online forums, pre-Shabbat briefings and open events that Weissman has organized for the Jewish community. Guest speakers at these events included Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East Affairs Yael Lempert and Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer.
“This administration is committed to maintaining a two-way dialogue between the White House and communities across the country, ensuring diverse voices are heard and concerns are translated into action. We are here to support the President’s goal of building a government that is inclusive, transparent, accountable and accountable to its citizens,” she said.
Greenspan noted Biden’s visit to Yad Vashem last month and a widely shared video of him approaching two Holocaust survivors who were beginning to show respect. Biden insisted they remain seated and get on one knee to speak to them. She said it struck a strong chord with her.
“For me, serving in this role as the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors is even more meaningful. my zaydie [Yiddish for grandfather] was the only survivor in his family,” Greenspan said. “Your granddaughter not only has the privilege of working in the White House, but also for a President whose support for Holocaust survivors is unmatched.”