The curious tale of a US army major with roots in Baghdad: Elan Carr, 45, was sent to Iraq in 2003, a country his mother's family had left as Jewish refugees 50 years earlier. The Times of Israel has the story (with thanks: Michelle; Lily):
A lawyer with degrees from Berkeley and Northwestern, Carr landed in Baghdad as an anti-terrorism officer, serving in a unit that reported to US Central Command. In addition to assessing threats and recommending responses, Carr served as a judge advocate in the US military’s legal system, prosecuting insurgents before Iraqi judges at the Central Criminal Court.
Now 45, Carr wasn’t the first member of his family to enter an Iraqi courtroom. His grandfather, once a prominent leader of Baghdad’s Jewish community, also appeared repeatedly in legal settings — but in his case as an unwilling participant in show trials, staged as part of Iraq’s anti-Semitic response to the establishment of Israel in May 1948.
Carr grew up hearing stories about his grandfather, a descendant of Abdallah Somekh, a chief rabbi of Baghdad in the 19th century. Despite Iraq’s long history as home to a large, flourishing Jewish community, the country was roiled by anti-Semitic violence in the years leading up to Israel’s founding, and Carr’s grandfather was already planning the family’s escape to Australia when he was imprisoned.
“My mother remembers him coming to the door with shaving cream on his face when they arrested him,” Carr says. A young girl at the time, she “remembers vividly the hysteria.”
Convicted on false charge of distributing communist propaganda, Carr’s grandfather received a sentence of three years in prison — plus an additional two for “calling Muslim witnesses liars.” In 1950, as he remained behind bars, the rest of his family immigrated to Israel, where he was eventually able to join them.
In Israel, Carr’s mother performed her army service in intelligence, then pursued a graduate degree in Middle Eastern and Islamic studies in New York City, where she met Carr’s father.
Despite a childhood that was in many ways typical for Jewish New Yorkers, “I was always Iraqi,” Carr recalls.