In a 2016 photo, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew leaves a meeting of the Financial Stability Oversight Council at the Treasury Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

Community House Honors ex-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew

By Paula Katinas

Queens Daily Eagle

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob “Jack” Lew, who has deep roots in Queens, is returning to his home borough next month to pick up an award from a leading community organization.

The Queens Community House will present Lew, a Forest Hills natice, with an award at its Strengthening Neighborhoods Inspiring Change Gala set to take place at the Museum of The Moving Image in Astoria on Oct. 23.

Lew will be honored alongside former New York Mets All-Star Edgardo Alfonzo. The former head of Treasury Department is a big Mets fan, according to a spokesperson for the Queens Community House.

“We are honored to celebrate Secretary Lew, whose ideas about social equality are connected to our organization’s history and have gone on to inspire change on a much larger stage,” Queens Community House Executive Director Ben Thomases said in a statement.

Thomases also cited Lew’s “commitment to social justice,” which he said “represents our vision of Queens as an empowered community that values diversity, respect, and mutual responsibility.”

 Lew, who served as treasury secretary during the Obama Administration, has a long record of public service, according to a biography prepared by the Queens Community House.

During his early years in Washington D.C., Lew served as a legislative assistant to U.S. Rep. Joe Moakley, as a senior policy advisor to House Speaker Tip O’Neill, and as assistant director and then director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Clinton Administration.

President Barack Obama asked Lew to become his White House chief of staff in 2012. A year later, Obama tapped him again, this time to serve as treasury secretary. He remained in that post until 2017.

Lew grew up in an apartment house on Yellowstone Boulevard in Forest Hills. He graduated from Forest Hills High School before attending Harvard University and earning his law degree from Georgetown.

His father arrived in New York City from Poland in 1916, learned English in school and went on to become a lawyer. Lew’s mother, who worked from age 15 to support her family, served as the bookkeeper in her husband’s law office. 

The Lew Family belonged to the Forest Hills Jewish Center, a Conservative synagogue.

Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser, who was the center’s spiritual leader, encouraged young Jack Lew to become involved in the Forest Hills community, advice that Lew apparently took to heart.

In a speech at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2016, Lew recalled Bokser as having a gentle but strong voice and urging everyone at the synagogue to support the Civil Rights Movement not just through words but by taking action.

The Queens Community House was founded in 1975. Its main headquarters is located at 108-25 62nd Drive in Forest Hills.

The non-profit organization offers educational, health and housing programs as well as programs for senior citizens. The organization operates out of 32 sites in 14 neighborhoods throughout Queens.

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