Trump’s new anti-Semitism monitor comes with diverse skills.
Ron Kampeas JTA.org
Elan Carr’s career, until now, has been equal parts prosecutor, policy wonk, politico and performance artist.
That makes him perfect for his new job as the State Department’s special envoy to monitor anti-Semitism. He was appointed last week.
Ira Forman, Carr’s predecessor, who has been leading calls for President Donald Trump to fill the position — unfilled since Forman’s departure two years ago — said Carr’s CV speaks well of the skills he brings to the post.
“His political skills should serve him well because part of the job is the art of the possible,” he said.
Forman cited his successor’s background in the U.S. Army, his leadership of a Jewish fraternity, his day school background, his mixed Mizrahi-Ashkenazi heritage and his fluency in Arabic and Hebrew.
Forman said the community should be grateful now that Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have filled the job.
“We’ve all been complaining it hasn’t happened, and we should now be happy it’s happened,” said Forman, who now works with Human Rights First, an NGO, to monitor and combat anti-Semitism.
Indeed, some of the organizations that have been leading the criticism of Trump for the delay could barely contain their pleasant surprise:
There were rumors that Trump might fill the slot with an unqualified donor or, worse, someone linked to the far-right elements that helped propel Trump to power and have influenced some of his policies, particularly on immigration.
Instead they are getting Carr, an affable, cross-the-aisle type of Republican who has gotten down and deep combating anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activity on campuses.
The statement by Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, perhaps Trump’s most outspoken critic among the large mainstream Jewish groups, notably focused on Carr’s biography in “enthusiastically” welcoming the pick.
“Carr knows all too well the scourge of hate,” Greenblatt said. “His grandfather was imprisoned after an anti-Semitic show trial in Iraq, where Elan later served as a U.S. Army judge advocate.
He has been a leader in the fight against anti-Semitism on college campuses and has long advocated for working across the aisle to craft thoughtful compromises, including in support of Israel.”
The American Jewish Committee said it was “grateful” for the appointment and also noted in its statement the intensive lobbying by the Jewish community and others to fill the congressionally mandated job.
Jewish Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives welcomed the appointment, but also emphasized the long wait.
The Wiesenthal Center said Carr “brings to the Special Envoy position boundless energy and a keen legal eye.” B’nai B’rith International called the appointment “outstanding,” and the Israeli American Council said there is “nobody more qualified” than Carr.
Carr is plunging into his work, last week he went to a conference on anti-Semitism in Bratislava organized by Slovakia, which currently holds the chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and then a European Union conference on anti-Semitism in Brussels.
“He sees this as a nonpartisan job,” said Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition who has known Carr for decades.
Carr, 50, has since 2004 served as a criminal prosecutor in Los Angeles County, specializing in gang violence. His approach has been holistic, focusing on the circumstances that drive youths to crime and not just on the crimes.
The big picture emphasis could serve him well in the job of anti-Semitism monitor, where he will be expected to take officials to task for specific anti-Semitic acts in their countries or even in their governments, while also gently encouraging larger fixes in education and rhetoric to roll back bias.
Carolyn Normandin, regional director of the ADL in Michigan, welcomes the appointment.
“We have repeatedly called for the administration to fill this position, and Carr has a deep breadth of knowledge and experience to bring to this critical role,” she said. “Carr has been a leader in the fight against anti-Semitism on college campuses and has advocated for thoughtful bipartisan work in this area.”
Normandin added that the ADL is also deeply committed to the support of H.R. 221/S. 238 — the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act, which would give Carr the rank of ambassador and ensure that, in the future, the position be appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate.
The law would impose a legal limit of 90 days for how long any administration could leave the job unfilled.
“The House passed this important bill several weeks ago by a vote of 411 to 1,” Normandin said. “This act would help make up for lost time when the envoy position was vacant. We urge the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and full Senate to take swift action on the bill, and we urge the full-funding of Carr’s office to ensure success.”
Managing Editor Jackie Headapohl contributed to this report.