After over two years of the position being left vacant, the Trump administration announced the appointment of a Los Angeles prosecutor and Iraq war veteran, 50-year-old Elan Carr, to serve as the State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.
His appointment to the State Department was welcomed by a broad base of Jewish organizations, many of whom had been involved in efforts to lobby for the post to be filled over the long period of inaction from the administration.
“The office has been a major asset in addressing international anti-Semitism and the need to do so is greater now than ever, and we’re very pleased the administration has filled the post,” Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel of America’s Vice President for Government Affairs and Washington Director, told Hamodia.
In 2017, as months went by without the administration naming an appointee, speculation circled that then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson planned to eliminate the post amid plans for a department-wide reorganization that would do away with several such special designees. In a House of Representatives committee hearing in May of 2018, Secretary Mike Pompeo committed to fill the post, but no action was announced until this week with the planned installment of Mr. Carr.
Reasons for the long delay are not clear, but it is one of many administration positions that have remained vacant for long periods of time, particularly in the State Department.
Mr. Carr was raised in New York where he attended a Jewish day school. His mother was an Iraqi Jew who fled to Israel with her family after her father was arrested in a wave of anti-Semitic actions by the government that began in 1948. The family is descended from Chacham Abdallah Avraham Yosef Somech, zt”l, who served as Rav and Rosh Yeshivah in Baghdad in the mid-1800’s.
The Carr home was bilingual, using both English and Hebrew. Mr. Carr’s father was of Ashkenazi decent and was the son of Holocaust survivors.
During his time studying at the University of California at Berkeley, Mr. Carr became a leader of Alpha Epsilon Pi, a major Jewish fraternity. He presently serves as the group’s international president.
After practicing law in private practice in New York for several years, he served several tours of military duty in Iraq as an anti-terrorism officer and judge advocate. During his return to his ancestral home, he was active in organizing religious services for Jewish soldiers and lit a menorah in the palace of Saddam Hussein on the first Chanukah after the dictator’s capture.
Upon his return to the United States, he joined the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office as a deputy. In 2014, he ran for Congress unsuccessfully as a Republican against Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA).
Mr. Carr and his wife, Daliah, have three children.
Los Angeles community activist, Stanley Treitel, who has developed a relationship with Mr. Carr in recent years, told Hamodia that he felt he was a worthy pick for the envoy position.
“He’s very committed to Jewish values and is a real professional who’s been a fighter for Jewish causes and against anti-Semitism through his career,” he said. “His heart is in the right place and I think he’ll do very well.”
According to reports, Mr. Carr will be leaving shortly to Europe to participate in two conferences on anti-Semitism.
The office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism was created in 2004, charged with studying threats to Jews abroad and with voicing concerns to foreign leaders on the state and safety of Jews in their countries.
As the seat remained vacant, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who originally authored the legislation that created the envoy office, introduced a bill to upgrade the position to the status of “ambassador” and to make it report directly to the Secretary of State. It was passed unanimously by the House but has yet to be voted on in the Senate.
Rabbi Cohen said the position has played an essential diplomatic role in protecting Jews abroad.
“The fact that the position exists has a symbolic value of the importance the U.S. places on the issue, but it goes beyond that as well. A lot of what the envoys have done remains off the radar, but we do get periodic reports of their meetings with foreign leaders and the like which have been helpful over the years,” he said.