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White House Calling

Yisroel Besser, Washington, D.C.

Donald Trump’s trusted negotiator, Jason Greenblatt, is a devoted family man and observant Jew. During a visit to his new office, Yisroel Besser gets a candid account of the ultimate power job

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

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TALKING IT OVER Throughout a tumultuous election campaign, Donald Trump’s trusted negotiator, Jason Greenblatt, maintained his sincerity and civility, publically defending his boss. With Trump’s triumph, Greenblatt was invited to bring his deal-sealing skills to the White House. Greenblatt describes the downsides and privileges of his position — and his staunch loyalty to a president he sees as unusually approachable, open, and friendly to the Jewish People (Photos: Eli Greengart)

O n Election Day, November 8, 2016, at approximately 8:30 p.m., Jason Dov Greenblatt and his teenage son Noah came out of the VIP room at the New York Hilton to join a Maariv minyan. He chatted amiably with journalists and guests and posed for a few pictures. About six hours later, he looked on as his boss, newly elected Donald Trump, came out on stage, flushed with triumph, and thanked his team — many of them, like Jason, newcomers to the political arena.

Now the election was over. What was next for the Trump Organization’s executive vice president and chief legal officer?

“I just want to get back to work,” Jason told anyone who asked. “I’m through with politics.” To me, he looked like a well-heeled gentleman who’d just stepped off a wild motorcycle ride. He survived the ride, though, with his shirt still tucked in: He hadn’t lost his sincerity and civility during the venom-filled campaign, even as he’d emerged as a loyal — at times outspoken — defender of his boss.

Then media reports began speculating that the attorney, who’d been named as a special advisor to the candidate on Israel issues during the election, was being offered a similar position in the new administration.

It’s pretty routine for people to say they’re talking these things over with their families. If you know Jason Greenblatt, though, you know that in his case, the standard line is actually true. He is an unabashed admirer of his psychiatrist wife, Dr. Naomi Greenblatt, whom he frequently quotes. The couple blog together on parenting and family topics, and before Yom Tov — with its extended family time — Jason and Naomi compile a family newspaper of sorts. It features articles of interest, milestones, and inspiration, and is meant to encourage family dialogue and discussion.

So yes, Jason talked to his family about the next step.

Both options held strong appeal: To keep his position at the peak of American corporate life, stringing together business successes, and spend every evening with the family, versus the chance to be part of history, to serve his country on its highest stage.

At this year’s Agudah convention, Jason graciously came on behalf of the president-elect, and accepted the accolades and good wishes of a largely supportive crowd. At a special audience with the Philadelphia rosh yeshivah, Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Jason received two brachos. The first, for the success and well-being of his family. Then he requested a brachah for Divine assistance to make the right decision.

Sealing the Deal

The news broke a few weeks later. Trump’s transition team announced the appointment of Jason Dov Greenblatt as “Assistant to the President, Special Representative for International Negotiations.”

It wasn’t easy for Greenblatt. His wife’s dedication to her patients and his children being established in their respective schools ruled out relocation for the family. Jason would be moving to DC by himself.

Would he keep his position at the peak of corporate life, or serve his country on its highest stage? Jason Greenblatt tells Mishpacha’s reporter about the phone call from his boss that clinched the deal

One evening, a few days after making the decision, he felt a bit stressed at the thought of his impending separation from his family and leaving a job he’d come to love. He went for a drive, hoping to unwind as he cruised the quiet roads of Teaneck.

The phone rang. The screen read “private caller,” but for some reason, Greenblatt pressed “answer.”

It was Donald Trump. The president-elect expressed his enthusiasm about the attorney’s decision to join him in Washington, telling Jason that he would help in doing great things for his country and for Israel. It was a very significant moment for Jason — one he will always remember as having closed the deal.

Just before January 20, Jason Greenblatt moved into his new DC apartment, tweeting a picture of Chabad shluchim kashering the kitchen.

He hit the ground running, part of an administration filled with outsiders trying to adapt to a new reality — new challenges, new colleagues, new rules. Three weeks in, the president’s representative for Mideast negotiating alongside presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner faced his first major task: welcoming Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Washington. Jason met with the diplomatic advance team and was heavily involved in the actual discussions between the president and visiting prime minister.

The very next day, he welcomed us to his new office, stopping to catch his breath for the first time since accepting this role.

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