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In 100 Days, A New Jewish Elite Rises Under Trump

Jewish elites visit White House. PHOTO: Forward

By Nathan Guttman | 30 April 2017

FORWARD — Among many moves aimed at reversing his predecessor’s policies, President Trump recently decided not to make public the White House visitors logs. Had they been open, the lists would reveal the profound change 100 days of a Trump administration had brought about to the Jewish community’s power structure.

“The atmosphere has changed, at least for us. There’s a sense of familiarity and greater receptivity, and that makes a better atmosphere,” said Abba Cohen, vice president for federal affairs at Agudath Israel of America, a group representing the ultra-Orthodox stream.

Liberal-leaning Jewish activists, once the backbone of communal advocacy, had been pushed aside in favor of a new elite made up of activists who are more conservative in their politics and more Orthodox in their religious practice. The new leaders representing American Jewish interests in the White House are keen to shape policy on education and religious expression and to ensure a pro-Israel stance more in line with Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Agudath Israel may speak for a relatively small portion of the Jewish community, but it succeeded in landing the first White House meeting among all Jewish groups.

On March 8, leaders of the organization visited the White House and sat down with Trump’s policy advisers, including counterterrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka and Boris Epshteyn, who has since left his position on Trump’s communication team. Agudath Israel leaders were also the first to meet with the education secretary, Betsy DeVos. The group favored her appointment, as it wants to expand the use of public funds for parochial education. […]

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