Two years into his term, President Joe Biden is set to name Jeffrey Zients, a management consultant and a bagel shop owner, to replace Ronald Klain as his next White House chief of staff. Zients, 56, will be the second consecutive Jewish person in this position.
Klain, who also played a key role in drafting Biden’s plan to address COVID-19 during the presidential campaign, is expected to leave in the coming weeks. Biden is reportedly preparing to launch his reelection bid following the State of the Union address next month.
Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Maryland, Zients spent most of his career in the private sector, as a management consultant and an executive at several health care firms. He first entered government in 2010, becoming a deputy at the Office of Management and Budget and later as OMB director. During President Barack Obama’s second term, Zients was tapped to help fix the glitchy rollout of the Healthcare.gov website and headed the National Economic Council.
Zients invested in 2018 in “Call Your Mother, “ a ‘Jew-ish’ bagel shop in Washington, DC. According to the Washingtonian, Zients originally wanted to name the deli Apples and Honey.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Zients joined the Biden campaign to help with finances and co-chaired Biden’s transition before leading the administration’s coronavirus response.
Zients will become the sixth Jewish American to serve as the White House chief of staff.
Ken Duberstein, who passed away last year at age 77, was believed to be the first Jew in this role, serving former President Ronald Regan in the last year of his second term. Joshua Bolten was President George W. Bush’s chief of staff from 2006 to 2009, followed by Rahm Emanuel and Jack Lew, who both served President Obama. Klain, the outgoing chief of staff, first served as chief of staff to Biden during his first term as vice president and for the first two years of his term as president.
Tevi Troy, a presidential historian and author of Fight House, a book about rivalries at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, said that the fact that both of Biden’s chiefs of staff are Jewish “with nary a mention of it indicates how comfortable Jews have become in America.”
While none of former President Donald Trump’s four chiefs of staff were Jewish, Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller were the closest and most influential Jewish aides throughout his term.
“At a time of rising antisemitism, this is a good sign for Jews about how welcoming this country is and has been,” said Troy, now a senior fellow and director of the Presidential Leadership Initiative Bipartisan Policy Center.
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