‘Huge honor and a privilege’
The fact that the 2016 Pennsylvania primary occurred during the week of Passover worked out well for Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy adviser, Laura Rosenberger.
That “wonderful convergence of the calendar,” said Rosenberger, meant that she could join her family in Pittsburgh’s South Hills for seder while being on hand to assist the presumptive Democratic candidate for president.
Rosenberger, 35, whose schedule is pretty full these days, is grateful for any opportunity to come back to the Pittsburgh area to visit her parents, Barbara and Bryan Rosenberger of Upper St. Clair, and her 91-year-old grandmother, Sylvia Moidel Byer of White Oak.
Rosenberger works with Clinton to develop the campaign’s national security policies and has deep ties to Pittsburgh’s Jewish community. Her family has been affiliated for decades with Temple Emanuel of South Hills, where Rosenberg attended preschool and celebrated her bat mitzvah, and her mother was instrumental in launching the South Hills branch of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh back in the 1990s.
“Being Jewish was always a big part of my upbringing,” said Rosenberger in a phone interview, taking a break from preparing Clinton for her speech on Donald Trump and national security, which the former secretary of state delivered from San Diego last Thursday.
Rosenberger was raised with a strong sense of Jewish identity and values. She attended Emma Kaufmann Camp in Morgantown and also traveled to Israel as a teenager with Young Judaea.
“I was grounded in the social justice philosophy of Judaism and have always been interested in working on behalf of those who are oppressed,” she said.
Rosenberger majored in sociology, psychology and women’s studies while an undergraduate at Penn State. But it was not until she was a senior in 2001 that she became certain of her calling.
She was wrestling with the decision of “what to do with the rest of my life” — whether to go into domestic public policy or foreign policy — when radical Islamic terrorists struck the Twin Towers on Sept. 11.
“I woke up on Sept. 12 and said, ‘I need to do everything possible to make sure what happened yesterday doesn’t happen again,’” she said.
That’s when she committed herself to a career focused on foreign policy and national security.
After earning a master’s degree in international peace and conflict resolution from American University, Rosenberger began her career with the U.S. Department of State. She worked as a career official at the State Department for 11 years and was there when Clinton assumed the position of secretary of state.
“I was so blown away by her,” Rosenberger recalled of meeting Clinton. “I literally remember the first time I ever briefed her. She has an unbelievable grasp of nuance and detail while seeing the big picture.” Rosenberger has been working for Clinton as her foreign policy adviser since last July, which she considers “a huge honor and a privilege.”
“I knew a year ago that this was really important,” she said.
Although it was never in her plans to work on a campaign, she said, the specter of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee has given her work “a new significance in terms of what’s at stake.”
Rosenberger provided policy input for Clinton’s San Diego speech — in which Clinton called out Trump for being “temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility”— but she does not take credit for writing it.
“One of my gifts is not speech writing,” Rosenberger said. There are several speechwriters on staff, she noted, and Clinton’s campaign works closely with other advisers, including former cabinet members.
In terms of U.S policy toward Israel, if elected, Clinton will be “renewing” the U.S./Israeli relationship and “ensuring we have a strong strategic partnership,” according to Rosenberger, adding that Israel and the U.S. will “need to work together” to confront several serious challenges.
The containment of Iran, Rosenberger said, would be a priority for a Clinton administration. Clinton supported the nuclear deal advanced by the Obama administration last summer, seeing it as the best option to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and she is committed to holding Iran accountable to abiding by its provisions.
Clinton also intends to work with Israel on confronting the threat of radical Islamic extremism, and to thwart efforts to “delegitimize Israel on the world stage,” according to Rosenberger.
While Rosenberger does not get back to Pittsburgh as often as she would like, she does come every chance she gets, she said.
“My grandmother, at 91, is as feisty as ever,” Rosenberg said of the World War II vet who grew up in an Orthodox family in Pittsburgh. “She is the best reason for me to come home. She really is an inspiration.”
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at email@example.com.