As President-elect Joe Biden’s transition is kicking into high gear after the Trump administration’s General Services Administration on Monday finally agreed to acknowledge his victory, we can report that at least five Jews will serve in top positions in the new administration: Ronald A. Klain as White House Chief of Staff; Antony John Blinken as Secretary of State; Janet L. Yellen Secretary of the Treasury; Alejandro N. Mayorkas as Secretary of Homeland Security; and Avril Danica Haines as Director of National Intelligence.
Ron Klain, 59, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana to a building contractor named Stanley Klain, and his travel agent wife Sarann Warner (née Horwitz), both of whom are Jewish. Ron Klain graduated from North Central High School in 1979 and was on the school’s Brain Game team which finished as season runner-up. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree summa cum laude from Georgetown University in 1983. In 1987, he received his Juris Doctor degree magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Byron White during the 1987 and 1988 terms. In the Clinton White House, Klain was Associate Counsel to the President and led the team that won the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In 1995, he became Chief of Staff to Vice President Al Gore. In 2008, he became Chief of Staff to Vice President Joe Biden, having served as counsel to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary while Biden chaired the committee.
Tony Blinken, 58, was born in New York City to his Jewish parents, Judith (Frehm) and Donald Blinken. He attended the Dalton School until 1971, when he moved to Paris, to attend École Jeannine Manuel. He lived in Paris with his divorced mother and her new husband, attorney Samuel Pisar, a Holocaust survivor. Blinken attended Harvard University where he earned his bachelor’s degree. He earned his J.D. degree at Columbia Law School in 1988. After graduation, he practiced law in New York City and Paris. He served on the United States National Security Council staff at the White House from 1994 to 2001. From 1994 through 1998, Blinken was Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Strategic Planning and NSC Senior Director for Speechwriting. From 1999 to 2001 he was Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European and Canadian Affairs. In 2002 Blinken was appointed staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, until 2008. From 2009 to 2013, Blinken served as Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to the Vice President. In December 2014, Blinken was confirmed as Deputy Secretary of State by the Senate. In 2002, Blinken married Evan Ryan in a bi-denominational ceremony officiated by a Jewish clergy and priest at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, DC.
Janet Yellen, 74, was born to Polish Jews from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Her mother, Anna Ruth (née Blumenthal) was an elementary school teacher, and her father, Julius Yellen, was a family physician, whose clinic was on the ground floor of their home. Janet Yellen graduated from Fort Hamilton High School as a valedictorian. She graduated summa cum laude from Pembroke College in Brown University with a degree in economics in 1967. She received her Ph.D. in economics from Yale University in 1971 and was the only woman in her doctoral class. Yellen served as Chair of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers from 1997 to 1999, and served on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors from 1994 to 1997. She chaired the Economic Policy Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development from 1997–1999. From 2004 until 2010, Yellen was the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. She was a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) in 2009. In 2010, President Obama nominated Yellen as vice-chair of the Federal Reserve System. Yellen simultaneously began a 14-year term as member of the Federal Reserve Board that will expire in 2024. On January 6, 2014, the Senate conformed Yellen as Chair of the Federal Reserve by a vote of 56–26, the narrowest margin ever for the position.
Alejandro Mayorkas, 61, was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1959, and his parents arrived with him and his sister to the United States in late 1960 as refugees, following the Cuban Revolution. The family started out in Miami, Florida, but later moved to Los Angeles, California. His father was a Sephardic Jew, and his mother a Romanian Jew whose family escaped the Holocaust and fled to Cuba in the 1940s. Mayorkas earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with distinction from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1981. He received his Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles in 1985. In 1998, Mayorkas was recommended by Senator Dianne Feinstein and appointed by President Clinton as the United States Attorney for the Central District of California, becoming the youngest United States Attorney in the nation. In 2009, Mayorkas was appointed by President Obama as the Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Mayorkas transformed the agency, including realigning its organizational structure to prioritize the agency’s fraud detection and national security responsibilities and creating an office of public engagement that made the agency more transparent and open in its consideration, development, and promulgation of policies and practices impacting the more than 7 million people who apply for benefits each year. Mayorkas championed United States citizenship, management efficiencies and fiscal responsibility, and safeguarding the integrity of the immigration system. In 2014, Mayorkas was promoted to the position of Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
Avril Haines, 51, was born in Manhattan on August 29, 1969, to a Jewish mother, Adrian (née Rappaport), and Thomas Haines. Her mother was a painter and died when Avril was 15. Her father is a biochemist and professor emeritus at City College, who helped found the CUNY School of Medicine, where he served as the chair of the biochemistry department. After graduating from Hunter College High School, Haines enrolled in 1988 in the University of Chicago where she studied theoretical physics and worked repairing car engines at a mechanic shop in Hyde Park. In 1991 Haines had taken up flying lessons before graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in physics degree in 1992. In 1998, Haines enrolled at the Georgetown University Law Center and received her Juris Doctor in 2001. In 2001, Haines became a legal officer at the Hague Conference on Private International Law. In 2002, she became a law clerk for United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Judge Danny Julian Boggs. From 2003 to 2006, Haines worked in the Office of the Legal Adviser of the Department of State. From 2007 until 2008, Haines worked for the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations as Deputy Chief Counsel for the Majority Senate Democrats (under then-chairman Joe Biden). She then worked for the State Department as the assistant legal adviser for treaty affairs from 2008 to 2010. In 2010, Haines was appointed to serve in the office of the White House Counsel as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Counsel to the President for National Security Affairs at the White House. In 2013, Obama nominated Haines to serve as Legal Adviser of the Department of State but later withdrew her nomination, choosing instead to select her as Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.