Abramson Heads to West Wing

It was recently announced that Jerry Abramson has been appointed by President Barak Obama to serve as the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs in the White House.

Abramson said in this new position, he will “work with governors, lieutenant governors, mayors, county official and tribes on domestic agenda issues such as affordable housing, public transportation, early childhood, workforce training and minimum wage. I’ll be listening to their ideas and concerns and giving the White House input about issues I’ve discussed.”
He will also work with states and local communities to bring about change at the local level.

Abramson said, “it is a real sacrifice, financially and personally, to leave our community,” but he is going to Washington to continue his lifelong commitment to tikkun olam “to have a chance, with the president, to try to make America, as a country, a better place.”

“I started my public service career with the Federal government,” he said, “and I will end my public service career with the Federal government. The only difference is this time, I will not be in uniform.”

In addition to his service to Louisville as an alderman and as mayor, and to Kentucky as lieutenant governor, Abramson has been a leader in the Jewish community and has always maintained his connection.

“There was a time when I was considered a young leader in the early 90’s,” Judge Dell Levy recalled. “We had program for young men at Kaden Tower and Jerry addressed us.” At the time, even though Abramson was the mayor of Louisville, he also served as co-chair of the United Jewish Campaign.

“That influenced a lot of us to consider public service,” Levy said. “He was really inspiring and convinced us that as young Jewish men, we had a lot we could contribute. … He influenced a lot of young people, including me, to do public service.”

Later, Levy served as chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council. “We would have our meetings at City Hall,” he recalled, “because it was a good central location. Invariably, Jerry would stop in during the meeting just to say hello.”

In every position he held, Levy said, Abramson “never lost sight of the importance of being a leader of the Jewish community.

Marcia Roth recalled that Abramson also served as chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council. “Way back when in the early days of my involvement in the Jewish community,” she said, “I was fortunate to be vice chair of the CRC when Jerry was chair. This was before he was general leader and I saw how effective he was.

“I’m so pleased to see him recognized by city and state and in the country,” she added. “He’s always been such a source of pride for us in the Jewish community. He’s always been the same person everyone grew up with, my husband included. No matter how important he’s gotten in his career, he never lost that sense of who he is and where he came from.”

“As mayor, Jerry accomplished a great deal,” said Fred Joseph, “and was greatly admired as an elected official and as a person. Consequently, for a large number of Louisvillians who had no personal relationship with a person of the Jewish faith, his public service improved communication among all parts of the community.

“The Jewish community takes real pride in fact that Jerry has accomplished a tremendous amount locally, but he also accomplished a lot nationally,” Joseph continued. “His service as President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors was evidence that Jerry was held in as high regard nationally as he was in Louisville.” 

“This is a wonderful appointment,” said Marie Abrams. “It allows Jerry to use all of his experience working with people who have different points of view and different backgrounds to come together and try and make progress on a variety of issues. It seems like a perfect position for him to use his people skills and executive talent.

“He’s always been an active member of our Jewish community,” she added, “and he will continue to be … he’ll probably reach out to the Washington Jewish community, too.”

“The job is a unique opportunity for him to have impact on inner circles of national leadership and do great things for city,” said Maura Temes. “Who can talk to Mitch McConnnell better than Jerry?” she asked.

She believes this job and having an office in the West Wing are “near top of his bucket list.” For someone “who spent entire career in public service,” she said, “this is the brass ring for him.”

“Begining with AZA,” Temes noted, “Jerry has spent a lifetime being committed to Jewish community. He was co-chair of the Campaign while he was mayor” and served on the national Young Leadership Cabinet. “His commitment has made us all very proud.”

“I’m so excited for him,” said Jewish Community of Louisville Board Chair Karen Abrams. “This appointment is so well deserved. It is exciting to see one of our local treasures be recognized nationally.” But, she added, she is glad Madeline is staying in Louisville, “because she does so much for our community.”

“Jerry has been a great leader in our Jewish community,” Abrams continued. “He’s headed the Campaign, always calls donors when asked on Super Sunday, and has spoken to our young people. Our Jewish community has greatly benefited from Mayor Jerry.”

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