ARSCC 9: Rededication & Renewal: The Two Mayors Meet

Outgoing Israel Consul General in Atlanta Opher Aviran hoped for a legacy that included a trade mission to Israel led by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, and also benefitted the sister city partnership. If based on the great success of this March 20 – 27, 2015 Israel cyber-security themed mission, Consul Aviran’s legacy will be a rich one.

Mayor Kasim Reed (left), an advocate for increasing trade between Atlanta, Georgia, and Israel, and a strong supporter of the Atlanta Sister Cities Commission, had been invited to Ra’anana, Israel, Atlanta’s seventeenth sister city, by Mayor Zeev Bielski.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, and Ra’anana Mayor Zeev Bielski, honoring local soldiers who died serving during military duty.

Claire Angelle, Atlanta’s International Affairs Department Director organized the Mayoral delegation that included five Atlanta city representatives. Mrs. Angelle works directly with the Atlanta Sister Cities Commission and attached Atlanta – Ra’anana Sister City Chair ArnoldHeller to the Mayoral mission that took place March 20 – 27, 2015.

Claire Angelle, International Affairs Director, Mayor’s Office, City of Atlanta, is wearing the black and white striped dress.

For seventeen years, Dr. Heller had hoped for an Atlanta mayor to visit Ra’anana, cement the bond, and spark multiple, exciting joint projects. Hopefully, the mission would lead to the fulfillment of a model sister cities program envisioned upon establishment July 22, 2001 when Mayor Bielski visited Atlanta.

Dr. Heller - standing before Ra’anana Central Park Lake backdrop.

Ra’anana, Mayor Bielski, Spokesman Yaoz Sever, External Affairs Coordinator Michal Gefen warmly responded with warmth and a buffet of grand opportunities for joint projects to flower and grow.

Mr. Yaos Sever to right of Mayor Bielski (center), Mrs. Michal Gefen, is to left of Mayor Bielski.

Mr. Guy Tessler, Conexx Chief Operating Officer, organized a mission that focused on cyber-security and increased deal flow. The business delegation included 25 top level Georgia business and organizational leaders from global companies such as Delta Airlines, AT & T, Coca Cola, Carter’s, NCR, Georgia Power, IBM and more.

Mr. Guy Tessler, Conexx COO Mrs. Bracha Shlomo, Conexx Israel.

The Conexx delegation visited Ra’anana-based hi-tech giants Amdocs, and AT & T’s Innovation FoundryAT & T has another innovation foundry on the Georgia Tech campus.The trade mission was also hosted by Retalix recently acquired by century old NCR that recently became Atlanta-based. NCR / Retalix is also building a corporate campus and innovation foundry near the Georgia Tech campus.

Mr. Tessler generously attached Dr. Heller to the Georgia Cyber Tech Mission to Israel. Guy’s counterpart in Israel, Mrs. Bracha Shlomo, Conexx Representative, Israel Office, Tel Aviv, graciously included the Ra’anana Chair in the Saturday, March 21 Jaffa seaside welcoming dinner. Mrs. Shlomo conveniently seated him next to incoming Consul General Mrs. Judith Shorer who expressed her support for the sister city partnership.

Mrs. Shlomo also included Dr. Heller to the Conexx Gala Dinner for Mayor Reed at the Carlton Hotel in Tel Aviv – the theme was Welcome to the Startup Nation. The Israeli hosts made their guests from Georgia feel right at home with a nurturing environment for relationship building and deal making.

Group picture: Mayor Reed, Consul Shorer, Conexx COO Tessler with Georgia Cyber Tech Mission

Due to a scheduling conflict, Dr. Heller could not meet with Mrs. Jean Judes, Executive Director, Beit Issie Shapiro who was out of the country, but on Friday, March 27, met with Mr. Benjy Maor, Director, International Resource Development, for a strategic planning session.

Mr. Maor and Dr. Heller envisioned Beit Issie Shapiro joining with the Marcus Center for Autism in Atlanta as Sister Centers in the sharing of knowledge, best practices, and innovations in treatment and application. A gala event will establish the Friends of Beit Issie – Marcus Center in Atlanta. A board and / or committee will be developed to set goals and coordinate joint programs and projects.

While touring Ra’anana Central Park with Mr. Gil Schmaltzer, a proud Director of a beautiful passive and active park in the heart of the city, they discussed the idea of an international garden. Central Park and Brook Run Park in Dunwoody, Georgia, exchange a limited variety of trees, bushes, flowers adaptable to respective climates to be planted in the other’s park.

Mr. Gil Schmaltzer volunteers to select some Israeli trees, bushes, flowers that will adapt to Atlanta area weather and start an international garden. Central Park also contains a Beit Issie playground for children with disabilities – Mr. Schmaltzer will work with parks worldwide to show them how to install the chaverim playground.

Dr. Heller met with Mrs. Limor Akta, Director, Ra’anana Music Center, and Mr. Guy Porat, Director and Conductor, Ra’anana Youth Orchestra. The K-12 school has 1,500 students and world class facilities and instruction.

Two goals were stated:

1 – Ra’anana Youth Orchestra and Atlanta Youth Orchestra engage in a music exchange and teleconferenced musical learning experiences. Limor Akta and Guy Porat will propose joint projects to Atlanta Symphony Conductor Robert Spano.

2- Limor Akta and husband Tamar Akta – who performed in concert in Roswell, Georgia, June 2013 – will work with the Atlanta – Ra’anana Committee to showcase Israel / Ra’anana musical talents visiting Atlanta.

The Atlanta – Ra’anana Sister City Committee, ARSCC, grew out of a student exchange between North Atlanta High School and Ostrovsky High – the mission was to jointly develop global entrepreneurship programs. The retired educator enjoyed revisiting Ostrovsky, meeting with Principal Yaffa Lehavi, and planning a range of learning opportunities / experiences.

Ostrovsky High School main entrance – playground.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015: Atlanta Mayor Kaseem Reed visits Ra’anana.

Mayor Reed arrives and is greeted by Mayor Zeev Bielski and Spokesperson Yaos Sever.

Mayor Reed signs the municipal guest registry while Dr. Heller and Mayor Bielski look on.

Mayor Reed lays wreath to honor memorial of Ra’anana citizens who died in battle or terror incident.

Mayor Reed admires electronic banner that is messaged by computer.

Mayor Reed displays gift from Municipality of Ra’anana and Mayor Bielski. Mayor Reed’s gift, a similar official seal, is wrapped in blue paper.

The two Mayors schmoozed, shared funny stories, and got along famously.

From left to right, Mrs. Anna Torres, Communications Director, City of Atlanta; Mr. Craig Cooper, Security Officer for Mayor Reed; Dr. Heller, ARSCC Chair.

Mayor Bielski makes Mayor Reed, Israel Consul in Atlanta Mrs. Judith Shorer, and Ra’anana staff laugh.

Mayor Bielski and Mayor Reed discuss the menu with the caterer.

After a delicious lunch, Mayor Reed says goodbye, returns to Tel Aviv, but first thanks Dr. Heller for his work in chairing the committee.

Mayor Bielski thanks Mayor Reed for visiting – Mayor Reed thanks Mayor Bielski for the warm hospitality extended to him.

Ra’anana has benefitted greatly from the leadership and vision provided from the seven men who have served as Mayor. Four New Yorkers started a settlement in 1922 – the municipality was incorporated in 1925.

Although jointly created by Mayor Bielski, the Atlanta – Ra’anana Committee also enjoyed strong support from former Mayor Nahum Hoffree who was Ostrovsky High Principal at the time of the exchange (1998) and visited Atlanta in 2006 for an ASCC Economic Development Conference.

Ra’anana and Ahuza Street in 1925 – today the garden city of 80,000 is considered one of Israel’s most livable cities.

Final Note: Proposed Sandy Springs twinning with the Upper Western Galilee Cluster – Kfar Vradim – Seven Villages.

Dr. Heller served as an adviser to Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul and Economic Development Director Andrea Hall on the city’s internationalization starting with a sister cities program, commission, and selection of a first sister city.

See: www.arnoldheller.org/sistercities/Blueprint for establishing a sister city program.

Heller recommended Yochneam, population 34,000, a Special Project City of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, JFGA – focuses have been on economic development and provision of family needs counseling programs. The aim was for Sandy Springs large Jewish community, synagogues and churches to assist Federation in some of the administration and cost of the family counseling programs.

Israel Vice Consul Ron Brummer suggested that Sandy Springs partner with the burgeoning Upper Western Galilee Cluster, Kfar Vradim and seven villages. Ruth Wasserman Lande, Deputy Director Lande, Federation of Local Authorities in Israel, enthusiastically supported twinning with the cluster rather than a bi-lateral agreement between two cities. The cluster is expected to incorporate as the Municipality of the Upper Western Galilee in the near future.

Located 2.5 hours north of Tel Aviv in the Tefen region, the Village of Roses, was founded in 1984 by leading Israel industrialist Stef Werthheimer. Clusters of residential areas adjacent to industrial zones comb the Upper Western Galilee hillsides. The major industry is the manufacturing of hi-tech tools that can cut hardened materials – super alloys, advanced composites - thirty or more other business initiatives have started up.

Dr. Heller had hoped to visit the Cluster during the March 20 – 27 mission; Mrs. Lande arranged for him to meet Cluster representatives but the distance and time involved for a one day round trip excursion worked against it.