Strohmayer this week began his position as the Deputy Consul General at the Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region, based in Philadelphia.
The consulate serves as the official liaison between the State of Israel and residents of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Delaware, Kentucky, West Virginia and Southern New Jersey.
Strohmayer, 31, who is openly gay, will wear a wide array of hats in his new role — working alongside newly minted Consul General Yaron Sideman to oversee the consulate’s press and public-affairs efforts, academic and public-speaking engagements, policy and political work, commercial and economic activities, as well as the day-to-day tasks of approving visas for travel to and from Israel and other services available to Israeli citizens, and keeping track of the consulate’s administration and finances.
“As you can see, I don’t have a lot of things to do,” he joked, adding that he has “nothing but appreciation for what this consulate has done in the past. They set a very high standard for me.”
Strohmayer comes to Philadelphia from Luanda, Angola, where he served as deputy chief of mission at the Israeli Embassy since 2010.
He received a degree in political science and international relations from Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2006 and is currently pursuing his master’s degree in international relations.
Prior to launching his career as a diplomat, Strohmayer worked for the Jewish Agency for Israel, overseeing youth camp counselors who worked in Jewish communities throughout the United States. He also held a number of positions with the Jewish Community Center Association, based out of Washington, D.C.
Strohmayer is a native of Bat-Yam, Israel, outside of Tel Aviv.
His mother was a teacher and an active union member, while his father, an airline worker, served as a volunteer member of the police force — examples that he said set up his future career path.
“My family was very involved in our community,” he said. “They taught me to be committed to the community, and that stayed with me. I wanted to do something for my country, and also outside of my country, and that eventually attracted me to the international arena.”
Strohmayer completed the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Diplomatic Training Program in February 2010 and was assigned later that year to the Angola post.
While LGBT-rights laws vary greatly among the places he’s worked, Strohmayer said he’s always been open about his orientation, although he considers it a non-issue in his work.
“It’s part of me but it’s not the whole part or something that’s too unique about me,” he said. “In my work, I’m representing my country as well as myself, but I’ve never felt like this was a key thing to my position. I’m aware that I’ve worked with a lot of different cultures and that some people are more open to it than others, but I’m open about it and have nothing to hide. But it’s never been something that I show off because Elad is a complex guy. It’s not just, Elad is gay and that’s it.”
His home country also has many dimensions, Strohmayer said, an idea that comes to play in the conversation about “pinkwashing,” a claim by some LGBTs that the country has attempted to use its LGBT acceptance to overshadow the Palestinian conflict.
Demonstrators protested this year’s Equality Forum, which highlighted Israel as its featured nation, and Strohmayer said discussions about these issues are positive.
“Protestors care, and I like people who care. I don’t like indifference,” he said. “People are entitled to their opinions, even if I disagree with them, or they with me. That’s what shows freedom of speech, and that’s something that Israel and the United States share as a great bond.”
Regarding the idea of “pinkwashing,” Strohmayer said he “respect[s] and understand[s] where they’re coming from, but that’s not the main issue. Israel is more than open for just gay society. Israel has so many things to offer. We are an island of democracy, liberal openness, in an entire region that is closed off, extremist and not open to civil liberties. While you can say, ‘While you’re doing this, you’re doing other things,’ where are the gay rights, the women’s rights in the Muslim world? Israel is not trying to sell something it’s not, but trying to show the positive things we can give to the world.”
Strohmayer said he and his partner both have a wealth of rights in Israel but noted that the country could still see more progress in areas such as adoption and surrogacy. Additionally, Israel doesn’t allow same-sex marriage, but recognizes those performed elsewhere.
In his new role, Strohmayer will be able to help Israeli gay couples who use an American surrogate complete paperwork to have the child declared an Israeli citizen, a “moving” aspect of his job.
In the coming years, Strohmayer said he’s eager to lead the consulate’s work in uniting communities of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints.
“I want to feel like I made a difference, like I changed something and made a difference in people’s lives,” he said. “I can give the cliché of wanting to be a diplomat who strengthens ties between Israel and the United States, but those ties are already very strong, so I have a good opening point with that. Our countries share a lot of things, and now it’s about creating bridges between people. We need to go to the lower resolutions and work to bridge gaps among people and among communities.”