TRENTON, NJ – Governor-elect Phil Murphy has named a federal Veterans Affairs Department official as New Jersey’s next health commissioner, who could be would the state’s first Muslim cabinet official.
Murphy said in a statement on Wednesday that Dr. Shereef Elnahal would be New Jersey’s first Muslim Cabinet official, if he was confirmed by the state Senate, North Jersey reported Wednesday.
He added he was “confident that Dr. Elnahal has the experience necessary to tackle these pressing issues.”
Elnahal, 32, grew up in Linwood and Galloway Township in Atlantic County, where his parents moved after immigrating from Egypt.
He is currently an assistant deputy undersecretary in the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
He joined the department in 2015 when President Barack Obama appointed him as a White House Fellow.
Muslim-American leaders hailed the news of Elnahal’s nomination on Thursday as an important step toward recognizing the diversity of the state and the contributions of Muslim-Americans.
“We are encouraged to see that Governor-elect Murphy is embracing the diversity of New Jersey by reflecting that diversity in his cabinet,” said James Sues, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The nomination, Sues said, shows the governor-elect is making an effort “to give all state residents a voice in his government.”