Forward Thinking

Janet Yellen Brings Jewish Side to Fed — Again

By Nathan Guttman

  • Print
  • Share Share
getty images

President Obama’s nomination of Janet Yellen to be the next chair of the Federal Reserve will, if confirmed by the Senate, make her the first woman to lead the bank since its creation nearly a century ago. But she’ll be far from the first Jew.

Yellen, whose nomination to head America’s central bank was reported Tuesday, will follow her immediate predecessor Ben Bernanke who was Jewish, and Bernanke’s immediate predecessor, Alan Greenspan, who was Jewish, too. There have been two other Jewish fed chairs in the past century. In fact, the other frontrunner for the position, Lawrence Summers, was Jewish too.

Yellen, 67, was born in a working class neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, to Julius Yellen, a family doctor, and Anna Blumenthal, who was a school teacher. A recent profile of Yellen published in the Financial Times described the family as “Jewish, although not particularly observant.”

Yellen studied economics at Brown and Yale and has spent nearly two decades in the academic world before joining president Clinton’s economic team. She served as a Federal Reserve governor, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, chair of the San Francisco Fed, and until now, vice chair of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.

In these positions, Yellen has established her credentials as a leading economist who was among the first to speak out against the dangers posed by subprime mortgages. As vice chair of the Fed Yellen supported Bernanke’s policy of maintaining low interest rates and has viewed dealing with unemployment as the key challenge facing the Federal Reserve.

In 1978 Yellen married economist George Akerlof, who is also Jewish. Akerlof won the Nobel prize for economics in 2001 with two other Americans. While living in Berkley, Calif., Yellen and Akerlof were members of the Reform Congregation Beth El, where their only son attended pre-school.

Jewish activists involved in the Bay Area community, as well as those from the Jewish community in Washington, where Yellen has been living off and on, could not recall any further involvement by her in Jewish life or in Jewish organizations. An economist friend of Yellen told the Forward that he knows she is Jewish, “but that’s about it.”

While most expect no problems with Yellen’s confirmation in the Senate, her real challenges will begin once she takes the reins of the central bank in January. After an eight-year term of Bernanke, who focused on trying to bring back the American economy from the brink of recession, Yellen will face the need to make key decisions on the way forward and the level of the Federal Reserve’s active involvement in economic policies.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: jewish, janet yellen, federal reserve, ben bernanke, alan greenspan

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Kosovo's centuries-old Jewish community is down to a few dozen. In a nation where the population is 90% Muslim, they are proud their past — and wonder why Israel won't recognize their state. http://jd.fo/h4wK0
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.