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!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • 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.