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Representing Israel, From Angola to Philly
Elad Strohmayer is no stranger to American Jewry.
Before joining the foreign service in 2010, the new deputy consul general in Philadelphia worked for the Jewish Agency for Israel in Jerusalem, overseeing Israeli counselors who work in Jewish summer camps in the United States and Canada.
Strohmayer said that position gave him insight into the complex array of Jewish groups that make up organized Jewish life.
But more importantly, he said, the native of Bat Yam had a chance to interact with American college and high school students. He now sees himself well-suited to make Israel's case to the young.
It doesn't hurt that he looks younger than his 31 years and speaks English without a heavy accent.
"I think I have the advantage of me being young and closer to their life, so I can come not just as an Israeli official, but also as someone who speaks the language and understands where they are coming from," he said in a recent interview at the consulate's Center City office.
"It's a complicated picture. You cannot just say Israeli good, Palestinians bad, it doesn't work like that," he said. His goal is to get students to learn the facts and not just "say automatically, 'Oh it's Israel's fault.' A lot of times today, young people try and blame Israel because they don't have the full picture."
As deputy consul general, he will assist the consul general in overseeing the office's political and diplomatic activities. He'll also oversee the office finances and all consular activities.
Strohmayer, who earned a bachelor's degree in political science and is working toward a master's degree in international relations, said he was drawn to the Foreign Ministry by his interest in global politics. For his first assignment, he spent the past two years as Israel's deputy ambassador in Luanda, Angola.
"I knew that I wanted to be in the international arena. I was always interested in world news and world politics. I knew that is going to be one of my destinies," he said.
He said it is fascinating to be posted to Philadelphia during the U.S. elections.
"I think the friendship between our two countries is beyond parties. And that is something that these elections can demonstrate as well -- the importance that both parties give to Israel."
Strohmayer's introduction to the local media came in the form of an Aug. 16 story about him that appeared in the Philadelphia Gay News.
Strohmayer said he's happy to speak to anyone about his role as an advocate for Israel. But he said there are dozens of gay and lesbian Israeli diplomats working around the globe -- reinforcing the notion that Israel is a liberal, pluralistic society -- and that his sexual orientation is not a factor in his work.
"I'm here as Elad Strohmayer representing Israel and I'm a very complex person that has many aspects to my being here," he said. Being gay is "one of them -- but that's not the only one."