Jewish Liaison Looks Back at Life, Career

White House Jewish Liaison Matt Nosanchuk opens up about his experience to Haaretz. In the piece, Nosanchuk reveals what it is like representing the president to the Jewish community, as well as own journey.

Sometimes, like while watching Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin light candles at last December’s White House Hanukkah party, his job is a pleasure. Other times, like when various parts of the Jewish community fought each other, and President Obama, over the Iran deal last summer, it’s not.

The Iran deal “is the most tendentious issue I’ve dealt with, no doubt about that,” he told Haaretz in an interview this week, after sharing his personal and professional story with about 100 supporters of Keshet, an organization that advocates for full the inclusion of LGBT Jews in Jewish life, in New York a day earlier.

“Many people in the community who worked with other liaisons said no one has held this job at a more difficult time,” Nosanchuk said. And he has held it for an unusually long time, too: two and a half years or, as he likes to count it, six Hanukkah parties (two each December). In contrast, President George W. Bush went through eight Jewish liaisons.

Nosenchuk also reveals what it is like to be gay in 2000’s America—when DOMA and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policies were in place.

“Not too long ago, LGBTQ people were largely invisible both in secular public life and in the Jewish community. Being out was seen as an obstacle to professional success,” Idit Klein, the executive director of Keshet, told Haaretz. “He models that being gay and Jewish can be an integrated identity in public life. That represents enormous progress.”

Nosanchuk’s work and coming out has brought him closer to his Jewish identity, he said. An only child, Nosanchuk was raised in a Jewish secular humanist household with his mother in the Detroit area. They moved there from Ontario, Canada after his parents divorced when he was six. He went to school in “mostly WASP-y Grosse Pointe,” he told the Keshet gathering.

He started working at the White House after a stint at the Department of Justice on HIV-AIDS and LGBT issues and earlier as a public-interest lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union. He also spent time at the litigation firm of Nathan Lewin, who is well known for representing Orthodox Jewish concerns. Nosanchuk earned both his undergraduate and law degrees at Stanford University, and spent his junior year abroad at Haifa University.

From lawyer to liaison, read his full retrospective here.