Ra’anana Offers Innovative Connections to Atlanta

Ra’anana Offers Innovative Connections to Atlanta

The sister cities are seeking deeper business ties and other ways to help each other.

Michael Jacobs

Atlanta Jewish Times Editor Michael Jacobs is on his second stint leading the AJT's editorial operations. He previously served as managing editor from 2005 to 2008.

Arnold Heller (left) and Rena Kahn (second from right) welcome Ra’anana representatives Tamar Knimach and Roee Dinovich to Atlanta in September.
Arnold Heller (left) and Rena Kahn (second from right) welcome Ra’anana representatives Tamar Knimach and Roee Dinovich to Atlanta in September.

Ra’anana is taking the idea of the Startup Nation to a new level this school year with a special startup incubator in the heart of the affluent Israeli city.

Twenty youths who have been part of the city’s mentoring program have been turned loose in the municipality-owned industrial park to launch their own company to fill whatever market niche they envision and are getting all the support they need to make it a success.

It’s an idea that could encompass Atlanta teenagers.

That youth startup was one of the programs two representatives of Ra’anana — Roee Dinovich, the head of the Ra’anana Business Administration and the industrial park, and Tamar Knimach, the manager of the city’s youth advancement agency — talked about as possible areas of cooperation between their city and Atlanta, which are linked through the Sister Cities International program.

Dinovich and Knimach visited Atlanta from Sept. 6 to 8 for a special international business development summit Atlanta hosted. Ra’anana and 11 other Atlanta sister and partner cities participated.

Both Atlanta and Ra’anana, which have been sisters since 2001, have embraced the concept of global municipal partnerships. Atlanta has 17 sister cities; Ra’anana, which has a population of about 71,000, has roughly two dozen sisters.

“This cross-pollination between cities has been a priority of my administration from Day 1,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights during a reception launching the September summit.

When he joined a Conexx-organized mission to Israel in 2015, he made a point of visiting Ra’anana and its mayor, Ze’ev Bielski, the former head of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

The relationship between the cities has been nurtured by the Atlanta-Ra’anana Sister City Committee, chaired by Arnold Heller, and the cities have natural affinities in the areas of innovation, medical technology and the cyber world.

Reed said Atlanta’s global partnerships have strengthened its entrepreneurial and innovative business culture, and while he didn’t single out Ra’anana, it epitomizes Israel’s startup drive.

Through translator Rena Kahn, a member of Heller’s committee, Dinovich explained that Ra’anana is home to 600 startup companies, 400 of which launched within the past three years. It also hosts such tech giants as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, NCR, Texas Instruments and Amdocs.

Part of the reason Dinovich and Knimach attended the Atlanta summit was to look for business opportunities in both directions: openings for Ra’anana companies to enter the U.S. market through Atlanta partners and Atlanta companies interested in launching efforts in Israel.

“They hope that Atlanta will also look at them as a place of development to do business with us,” Dinovich said.

But although business is a key part of the relationship, it involves more. Kahn has brought Ra’anana musicians to Atlanta for cultural connections, for example, and Ra’anana is the first Israeli city to participate in the Daffodil Project, an effort of Atlanta-based Am Yisrael Chai to plant 1.5 million daffodils around the world in memory of the children slain in the Holocaust.

The possibility of Atlantans joining or copying the youth startup, whose launch was more than a month away when Dinovich and Knimach visited, is another way the cities could work together.

The Atlanta-Ra’anana Sister City Committee (www.atlsistercities.org/ra-anana) welcomes ideas and members from the community to help maximize the cities’ cooperation and innovation.

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