The 2019 Conexx Gala at the Atlanta History Center May 21 was themed “Home of the Israeli Tech Village.” This year, for the first time at the gala, five cutting-edge innovations and products had interactive tables set up in the lobby for the America Israel Business Connector event.
Pirates with eye patches and swords roused the 200 minglers to call attention to gala chair Dexter Caffey’s Smart Eye Technology. The pirates were actually 18-year-old Israeli members of the shinshinim volunteers on hand to teach Israeli culture and connections in the U.S.
Caffey was recently featured in the Atlanta Business Chronicle as the first African-American to head the Conexx gala. Caffey, who has been to Israel several times, was quoted in that article as being grateful to his Jewish dentist in Youngstown, Ohio, who mentored him as a young man.
His software that only allows authorized viewers to see a document through facial, iris or voice recognition, is using Israeli technology as his platform. As emcee of the gala, he noted “40 Israeli companies have headquarters in the Southeast. The outcome of this drives innovative technology.”
Conexx Chairman Randall Foster said, “This has been a banner year for auto technology, energy, analytics, cyber security and drones.”
Foster, who recently took his teenagers to Israel, has visited there 40 times.
Israel’s consul general to the Southeast, Ambassador Judith Varnai Shorer, was emotional about coming to the end of her service in Atlanta. “I will always cherish the Southern hospitality we experienced here.” Also recognized for his positive impact here was her husband, Oded Shorer, director of economy and trade for the Consulate General.
This year’s video featured Yvel Jewelry and its Megemeria School of Jewelry & Art, which trains Ethiopian immigrants in the professional design and production of jewelry blending Israeli and Ethiopian cultures.
Special guest Daniel Sahalo, originally from Gondar, Ethiopia, now lives in Jerusalem. He told of his family’s journey in Operation Solomon in 1991 as Falasha Jews, treacherously trudging through the Sahara with 17,000 others over years of robberies, the loss of his sister, 4,000 other deaths, and unbearable heat to fall into the arms of the Mossad-arranged desert trucks and air lifts.
“In the middle of nowhere, we’re shocked to see ‘white Jews’ rescue us, and that a plane flew on the Sabbath (out of necessity). … Now there are 140,000 Ethiopians in Israel [similar to the Jewish population of Atlanta}. Yvel has elevated Ethiopians out of jobs like cleaning offices into this proud profession of crafting jewelry.”
Gene Gurevich, director of government affairs and public policy for Mobileye, presented the Deal of the Year award to Yolanda Kokayi of Mueller Water Products. Renee Rosenheck of Joel & Granot Commercial Real Estate gave the Israeli Company of the Year Award to Brad Sherman, People Operations at Networx.com.
Conexx President Guy Tessler mentioned the recent tragedy that increased much-needed fundraising and ensuing restoration of the Notre Dame Cathedral. “It’s relevant if clients have immediate needs and you want to be top-of-mind to call Conexx as a knee-jerk reaction for our resources and companies.”
Medical technology was top of mind. The U.S. Company of the Year went to Loretta Cecil of Change Healthcare. Earlier, Foster recognized Tiffany Wilson, Conexx board member, who runs Atlanta based nonprofit Global Center for Medical Innovation in conjunction with Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. She started the project in December, the launch attended by representatives from Emory Healthcare, Emory Medical School, Georgia Tech and Grady Hospital.
The last presentation, the Tom Glaser Leadership Award, went to Jorge Fernandez of the Pendleton Group and former vice president of global commerce for the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Beginning with a perfect Cuban “Erev Tov,” Fernandez said, “We are sending people from Peachtree Corners to Israel to connect with technology companies there to hopefully land their offices back here.”
Keeping the crowd pleased, Avenue K Kosher Catering had stations with varieties of sushi, salad, pasta and BBQ brisket wraps along with an open bar and desserts.
- Marcia Caller Jaffe
- 2019 Conexx Gala
- Atlanta History Center
- America Israel Business Connector
- Dexter Caffey
- Randall Foster
- Judith Varnai Shorer
- Oded Shorer
- Daniel Sahalo
- Gene Gurevich
- Guy Tessler
- Tiffany Wilson
- Tom Glaser Leadership Award
- Jorge Fernandez
- Avenue K Kosher Catering
- Israeli Technology
- Conexx: America Israel Business Connector