Starting up a sister city program should not be taken lightly – to make it work is a big undertaking that takes a decade or two to institutionalize. And then some still fail. So when a person asks a city to twin with another in a foreign country, that is a huge responsibility that demands diligence and follow through. Let me be clear: Expect to incur significant investment of time and out of pocket expenses or the initiative is unlikely to survive – forget thrive. Very few sister cities programs are municipally funded or provided a budget.

The ARSCC has achieved a great deal during the past 15 years – we should have been able to accomplish a lot more. There have been a number of highs and some lows. I have been enriched immeasurably by my experiences as ARSCC Chair – have also experienced some deep disappointments. I continue to hang in there trying to improve things and along with the committee, simply do the best we can.

Ra’anana has been a great partner and I am thrilled to have been a part of this people to people relationship. Together we have made many wonderful things happen and failed on occasion, particularly in the area of student exchanges. Regardless, it is the spirit of sister cities to move forward and hope that the next year will bring more great new opportunities.

The 2006 ASCC Economic Development Conference had been successful and the Commission moved to schedule another for 2008 on the subject of “Green Space and Public Transit Policies”. Ra’anana committed early in enrolling two municipal representatives.

7:00 PM Official Dinner & Gala at Atlanta City Hall.

Two Ra’anana representatives at 2008 ASCC Economic Development Conference, Lia Rudnicki, Deputy City Engineer & Mrs. Oshra Koren, a City Council member and Chairperson of Ra’anana’s International Relations Committee. Ra’anana is an innovation leader in waste and renewable energies management.

E-mail from Ronnie Zandman to Mayor Hofree and Ronit Shoham, International Affairs Coordinator – Setting the Agenda for 2009

The Mayor’s schedule did not permit him to meet Mr. and Mrs. Zandman, I appealed, Ronit tried again, the day was booked - his schedule could not be changed.

Memorial picture of my late wife Sue Heller, an ARSCC co-founder, who passed away November 21, 2009, after a long struggle with lung cancer.

Mayor Hofree sent a telegram to express his and the city’s condolences.

The ARSCC honors Israel’s annual Independence Day Celebrations

I decided to visit Ra’anana in June 2010 – it had been ten years since I had last been there and was long overdue. It was time to “put a face on all those emails”, strengthen the city to city bond, and develop an agenda to present to Mayor Hofree.

The Ra’anana Music Center, a K-12 academic music school, is an outstanding facility and incredibly nurturing environment for the municipality’s gifted / talented children. Director Limor Akta and husband-trumpeter Tamir Akta performed a concert in Roswell, GA two years later.

My friend Warren Melamed of Nashville, TN joined me in Ra’anana and we toured the entire Jewish State from top to bottom. I arrived four days before Warren to initiate as many new projects as possible during the busy week. Ra’anana provided me a warm reception, terrific itinerary, and an excellent hotel view (Sharon Hotel, Herzliya).

I discussed with President Colin Marks Masorti’s long term viability if the congregation did not attract new families – last estimate was 45 families which places the synagogue at risk of dissolution. Mayor Hofree has offered a free plot of land and new building if Masorti will merge with a similar-sized Sephardic congregation experiencing the same problems. Despite both synagogues being part of the Conservative branch of Judaism, it is difficult to conceive how the Anglo Masorti (Ashkenazim) and Hispanic / Mediterranean (Sephardim) expressions can be successfully merged / fused. I addressed the Masorti Shabbat Service and discussed how the ARSCC could assist the congregants. Warren Melamed and I were Shabbat dinner guests of Colin Marx and his family.

Picture taken with two Founders Hall staff members and Sima Peri (jacket), Ra’anana Councilwoman / International Affairs Committee Chair, Ronit Shoham (black outfit) International Affairs Coordinator / Mayoral Spokesperson. Sharing of best practices between The Bremen at Selig Center and Atlanta History Center and Founders Hall remains an ARSCC goal.

My visit concluded with a planning and schmoozing session at Ra’anana Park Lake Café – lunch with Mayor Hofree and Mrs. Sima Peri during which we developed an agenda for the coming year, 2011 – 2012.

Report to Atlanta Ra’anana Sister City Committee Members on results of trip:

Leon Rechtman and the SOREL Project:

Third Sister Cities Economic Development Global Partnership Forum: Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, Oct. 18 – 19, 2010

Israel Consul Reda Mansour is replaced by Opher Aviran – Dr. Heller and Dr. Suzman meet with the Consul for assistance:

ARSCC Vice Chair Myrna Cohen and sister Roberta visit Ra’anana May 15, 2011:

I had returned home from my June 2010 Ra’anana meetings determined to finally organize a student exchange. I approached North Atlanta High and Pace Academy about jointly engaging in a student exchange with the three Ra’anana high schools – Ostrovsky, Aviv and Metro West. I had met with Pace a year earlier about working with their International Component of the school curriculum which is described in the following e-mail to Ronit Shoham, Ra’anana’s Mayor Spokesperson.

I brought Pace together with North Atlanta High’s International Baccalaureate Program to jointly carry out a student exchange program. We scheduled this joint project for a Fall 2010 Atlanta mission to Ra’anana with Pace and North Atlanta reciprocating in the spring of 2011. This exchange was re-scheduled for the following year due to Ra’anana’s learning that the Ministry of Education required schools to submit requests a year in advance of being approved for an overseas exchange. As noted in the meeting with

Israel Consul Aviran, I complained about this ruling and requested the Consulate to intervene – they could not.

The Atlanta Sister Cities Commission – ASCC, after organizing three economic development conferences (2006, 2008, 2010), decided to facilitate a Super – Exchange: Secondary schools from Atlanta’s 18 sister cities were invited to participate. I was the principal organizer of the Sixth Super-Exchange in Atlanta educational history and expected Ra’anana’s participation as automatic.

Ra’anana managed to recruit 3 – 4 students but the cost of underwriting the teacher – chaperon’s airline ticket became problematic and eventually prevented them from participation.

The following e-mail to Ra’anana describes my feelings of disappointment.

The following news article was published in the weekly Northside Neighbor Newspaper the week after Super – Exchange 6 concluded. The article describes the countries that sent high school delegations and the program the Atlanta Sister Cities Commission provided them.

Ra’anana’s failure to participate was the low point of my thirteen years as chair. However, as stated earlier, the mission and spirit of sister cities is to sum up the committee’s strengths, learn from failure so as to never repeat it again, and move on to the next project. I instead celebrate the economic development – trade and investment – that has manifested the past fifteen years and turned the page on student exchanges. It is unlikely that there will ever be one. If it does happen, Ra’anana will have to propose the joint project and take the lead in expediting it.

In the meantime, the extraordinary business relationship that has developed between Israel, Ra’anana, and Atlanta and the U. S., is described in the following 2012 Atlanta Jewish Times news article.

Beit Issie Shapiro is a world class center for education and therapy for special needs people, children and adults. Based in Ra’anana, Beit Issie has friends all over the world that raise money or organize charity events for the center which has a working relationship with the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta.

From Rena Kahn, ARSCC member, August 2, :

The ARSCC participates in the ASCC’s annual Holiday Parties. Myrna Cohen and Rena Kahn traditionally lead the way in providing a tasty sampling of Israeli foods for the other sister cities to experience and enjoy.

Rena Kahn also principally organized the ARSCC’s highlight of 2012, a wonderful concert that was produced at the home of Roswell architect Mr. Ari Kohn.

Team Ra’anana L – R: Musical accompanist (unidentified), Rena Kahn, Limor Akta, Tamir Akta, Ari Kohn, Arnold Heller

Limor Akta addresses the 55 people in attendance about the mission of the Ra’anana Musical Center.

The major project for 2013 was a visit to Ra’anana by 75 MBA students from the Goizueta Business School of Emory University.

When Hamas attacked Israel by shooting hundreds of missiles into the center of the country, two-thirds of the MBA students dropped out of the trip. Eventually, Dr. Jozette Kauffman, Tour Leader, planned to visit Ra’anana with three hearty students. Unfortunately, the day of the visit to Ra’anana, the van that the Emory group planned to drive to Ra’anana, was robbed of laptops, smart phones, and passports. The rest of the trip to Israel was spent scrambling with the American Embassy to obtain passports for the return home to Atlanta. Dr. Kauffman has promised that the Emory MBA group is going to visit Ra’anana at some time in the future. The ARSCC looks forward to assisting them when they are ready to try again.