WINDSOR, Ont. — Windsor-born Matt Nosanchuk is the new Jewish liaison for the Obama Administration in Washington D.C.
Working out of the White House, Nosanchuk is the point man for communications between America’s myriad Jewish organizations and the federal government. He was appointed in July.
Nosanchuk is the son of retired Windsor Provincial Court Judge Saul Nosanchuk. When his parents divorced, he moved to Detroit, where he attended elementary and high schools, then obtained his undergraduate and law degrees at Stanford University.
Nosanchuk, 48, has a strong civil rights background, a prime reason he was chosen for the post.
He held a senior position in the U.S. Department of Justice prior to the appointment. His portfolio consisted of working on the administration’s response to the Defence of Marriage Act, which successfully voided the act resulting in benefits being extended to same-sex couples.
He also was pivotal in expanding hate crime law under the Matthew Shepard Act of 2009 to include crimes related to gender and disability.
Nosanchuk attributed his interest in civil rights partly to his own background as well as his Jewish heritage.
“I think I identified with the outsider,” he said.
He grew up in downtown Detroit in an integrated neighbourhood, but attended a private school in elite Grosse Pointe, where “I was Jewish and everybody else in my school wasn’t.” He also was a “child of divorced parents at a time when that wasn’t very prevalent.”
He said the “values of his parents” also played a role.
His father, Saul, is well known in Windsor for his humane treatment of offenders. A young offender rehabilitation and halfway house is named after him.
The values “imparted to me as a Jew” also determined Nosanchuk’s desire to practice human rights law and “help others to ensure that injustices were addressed and rectified.”
Accepting the White House appointment now means Nosanchuk can work directly for President Barack Obama, of whom he’s long been a “strong supporter” and can “contribute to the success of his presidency in whatever way I can.”
Said his father Saul: “I think he’s had a remarkable career. I’m very proud and moved that he would be interested in public service. That has been his focus throughout his whole career.”
Nosanchuk is still getting acquainted with the new role, but already has met with numerous Jewish organizations on a range of issues, including Syria, the restarted Middle East peace process, the Affordable Health Care act and comprehensive immigration reform.
“In issue after issue, things that are of significance to the administration also are a priority to the Jewish community,” he said.
Nosanchuk said he’s both a sounding board for various Jewish interests, as well as someone through whom to communicate White House policy.
He recently organized a Washington briefing for 70 Jewish federation leaders. He’s also attended high-level meetings between Jewish leaders and top administration officials, such as National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Secretary of State John Kerry.
He said Middle East issues are obvious priorities, but so is a matter like immigration reform, which seemingly might not affect Jews.
But, he said, this is relevant to Jews’ “historic experience.” He said the Jewish community wants to ensure “that we don’t pull up the ladder behind us” and deny opportunity to new immigrants.
“And so it very much ties into our own experience in this country and to our values as Jews in helping others,” he said.
He said U.S. and Canadian Jews “have close ties and shared values and priorities.”
He said many American Jews, “like me, have Canadian relatives, or were born in Canada.”
As well, a number of Jewish organizations and religious denominations have an “institutional presence in both countries… in fact, I [recently] spoke at a salon here organized by two Washingtonians, both of whom grew up in Montreal.”