Deputy consul general proposes ways to engage youth on first Pittsburgh visit
Elad Strohmayer and his boss, Yaron Sideman, have a lot of ground to cover as Israel’s new Deputy Consul General and Consul General to the Mid-Atlantic Region.
Their territory covers Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Delaware and southern New Jersey.
“That’s a lot of area for two staff persons to cover, “ Strohmayer said, “a lot of Jewish communities.”
Which is why when he had his business cards printed up — the same cards he gives out on his travels — he made sure they read “Consulate General to the Mid-Atlantic Region,” and not “Consulate General to Philadelphia.”
“My responsibility is not just Philadelphia,” Strohmayer told the Chronicle. “It’s so important. That’s why I reach out, and not just by traveling … we’re building partnerships [with communities throughout the region].
Strohmayer, who took up his new post in July, made his first visit to Pittsburgh last week. In addition to speaking at the Israel rally at the Jewish Community Center, he used his brief stay here to meet with U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy and officials from J Street-Pittsburgh, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, Hillel Jewish University Center as well as Jewish faculty and students from area universities.
During those meetings, he discussed — among other things — ways to interest young Jews in Israel.
A youthful diplomat himself, the 31-year-old Strohmayer said he hoped he could build personal and professional relations with young Jews, and not just engage them on a political level.
He also hopes to employ cultural activities to stimulate interest in Israel among young and old alike.
One idea, which he discussed with Federation officials, was an Israel jazz festival, something that he’s already started in Philadelphia with the support of the Philadelphia Federation and Israeli House. That weeklong, six-concert festival attracted some 1,000 people.
“Jazz in Israel is very unique, very developed and very popular,” Strohmayer said. “It’s also a combination of world music, depending on the artist.
“This is one example of things we can do here,” he added. He also acknowledged the JFilm Festival here, which is accomplishing the same goals through film.
Strohmayer also expressed an interest reaching out to non-Jews in concert with the regional Jewish communities, one of the goals being to “emphasize the shared values of the United States and Israel.”
To achieve these goals, Strohmayer said he and Sideman would depend heavily on the partnerships they are developing across the five-and-a-half state region.
Asked if appointing honorary consuls throughout the region would help with Israel’s goals of outreach, Strohmayer said the idea was “worth exploring,” noting he had seen honorary consuls work during his previous posting in Africa.
A native of Bat-Yam, Israel, a suburb of Tel Aviv, Strohmayer became interested in diplomatic work during his military service. He first heard of shlichim and soon became a summer shaliach to Jewish youth in the Washington, D.C., area for four summers.
After studying political science and international service at Hebrew University, he entered Israel’s foreign service and received his first posting as deputy chief of mission in the Embassy of Israel in Luanda, Angola, from November 2010 through July 2012.
Strohmayer said he expects to return to Pittsburgh once every few months, citing the importance of the region to Israel.
“It’s a very important community,” he said.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)