Sarasota became involved in the sister cities program in the early 60's when a group of local businessmen organized the Association for the purpose of involving Sarasota businesses in possible ventures in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The organization numbered some 200 members and was headed by such community leaders as Dallas Dort, David Lindsay, Jr., Mayor Elmer Berkel, David Cohen and Mayor Fred Soto. Support from the newspaper and the Chamber of Commerce was strong. Student and other cultural exchanges took place. Wells Purmont came on board as President in the 1970's and continued to hold the Association together. After the Dominican Republic government encountered a political overthrow, contact with the country ceased.
Later, in 1990, Julio Claret took the reins as President with the encouragement of then Mayor Lou Ann Palmer. Visits from delegations headed by sitting Mayors took place, and a supply of medical equipment, an ambulance, and a fire truck were donated to Santo Domingo. More recently, used school and county equipment was donated. Shortly afterwards, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, was added as another sister city. Hamilton was chosen because it was involved in the Jason Project with Mote Marine, and because the Mayor of Hamilton was a frequent visitor to Sarasota. A high school baseball team visited, and a game was held at Ed Smith Stadium, which was a big success.
It was supported by the community and publicized by the print and TV media. Delegations have gone back and forth between the cities. In 1991, the Sarasota Ballet performed in Hamilton with much fanfare, and a Senior Follies group from Hamilton performed at the Van Wezel. Hamilton is anxious to establish more ties wherever possible and seems to be a good opportunity for trade exchanges.
Delegations were exchanged and a group of young, adult dancers visited Sarasota in April 1994, performing on the Opera House stage. A delegation from Sarasota earlier had visited Vladimir, and Vladimir did participate in the 1997 children's art exchange. A patient from Vladimir came to Sarasota for an important operation.
Perpignan, France, became a sister city in 1993, due to the interest in Sarasota of having a tie to a French city because of the French Film Festival. Perpignan is also the birthplace of Cafe of the Arts owner, Alain Taulere. Although the Film Festival has been discontinued, there are possibilities of other business opportunities for us as business interests in Perpignan are very interested in exploring business exchanges. We have just finished our second successful high school student exchange between the two cities, and are planning for next year.
Tel Mond, Israel, was selected in 1996 as a sister city due largely to a strong desire expressed by the Sarasota-Manatee Jewish Federation. The Federation has been involved in the growth of Tel Mond, and has built with the help of local citizens, a library and sports complex. Other financial and cultural investments have evolved from the Federation, and several synagogues have also helped financially, including a college student summer camp counselor project this past summer. In addition, the Federation has helped with grants in support of the recent successful elementary school art exchange with five sister cities, the John and Mable Ringling Museum and the Sarasota School System.
The Association has the support of many citizens, various local organizations, and the City of Sarasota which has authorized the Sister Cities Association some budgetary funds for the purpose of promoting Sarasota.
Much has been accomplished, and we now would like to work with the business community to determine how mutual efforts can assist both the Association and businesses to further their goals.
Hope Byrnes, President, 1993
Sister Cities International Statistics as of Year-end 1996
US Cities in Program.... 1088 Foreign Cities....1770
US States.... 50
Total Affiliations.... 1937 Foreign countries.... 122
SARASOTA SISTER CITIES ASSOCIATION
It is a pleasure to have an opportunity to speak to you on one of the volunteer activities which is very much a part of my life in Sarasota, the Sister Cities Association. It is a part of the International Sister Cities program which began in 1958 under the direction of President Eisenhower. The purpose is to promote understanding, and to exchange ideas on education, trade and culture on a people to people level. Currently there are over 1800 sister city relationships in the United States.
Sarasota became involved in the sister cities program in 1963 with one sister city, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Since then, we have established ties to four other cities. All of our five sister cities have participated in exciting projects jointly with such institutions as the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Mote Marine, and the Florida Studio Theater
The City of Sarasota sponsors the Association, both with limited funds and in kind services, to assist promotion of tourism and business ventures when it is of direct financial benefit to our City. We act as facilitators, and depend on dues from volunteer members and support from all levels of the community.
Recently we had a number of visiting dignitaries from our five sister cities including the Mayor of Hamilton, Ontario; civic leaders and a ballroom dance group from Vladimir, Russia; two City Commissioners from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; the Mayor and Vice Mayor of Perpignan, France; a student from Tel Mond, Israel, teaching at a summer camp; a Mote Marine intern from Santo Domingo; and a talented choir from Hamilton.
In March, a 23 member delegation from Sarasota headed by Mayor Gene Pillot will tour Israel, and make a formal visit to Tel Mond, our newest city. We will have an opportunity to visit with the Israeli people, have supper in their homes and make new friends. This summer, four Sarasota college students and teachers again will visit Tel Mond to teach in a summer camp for youngsters and experience life in Israel.
In April, ten high school students from Perpignan will visit. In July, ten Sarasota high school students will visit Perpignan. An adult group from Perpignan will visit Sarasota this summer to explore additional avenues for contact. In September, an official delegation will visit Perpignan to attend the International Photographic Festival with the possibility of actually extending the festival to Sarasota in the future. In our future cultural and educational projects we want to build on our success to date by giving greater attention to possible business ventures between Sarasota and our Sister cities.
Sarasota Sister Cities Association is an exciting organization because of its diverse interests and members who represent many different walks of life in Sarasota. In a way, it is a "no holds barred' association. We can do just about anything we wish, if only we are willing to accomplish it.
Thank you for letting me tell you about our association; one of the many which makes our area so special.
המועצה המקומית תל-מונד THE MUNICIPALITY OF TEL-MOND
CODE 40600 T17• FAX. 09-7961163.029 TEL. 09-7961801.20
January 5, 2000
Mrs. Hope Byrnes President Sarasota Sister Cities Association Sarasota, FL
I would like to thank you for your extensive work throughout the last few years for enhancing the relationship between Sarasota and Tel Mond. Your dedication to twin Sarasota with cities from around the world for the mutual benefit of everyone involved has proven remarkably successful.
For us in Tel Mond, your intensive involvement as President of the Sarasota Sister Cities Association in bringing Tel Mond to be part of the activities and projects of your association is genuinely appreciated by all the residents of Tel Mond. As the Mayor of Tel Mond, I was impressed by your commitment and untiring efforts to make Tel Mond's first official visit to Sarasota a success.
On behalf of all the residents of Tel Mond, I personally thank you for all your efforts, and assure you that this is only the beginning of a wonderful partnership between the city of Sarasota and Tel Mond.
Shlomo Ratzabi Mayor
A Brief History
The history of the Sister City Association of Sarasota (SCAS) really had its beginning in Washington, D.C. in 1956 during the United States presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower. It was Eisenhower, who after serving as the Allied Supreme Commander of the armies of Europe during World War II, and viewing the horrific devastation of human life and property resulting from that tragic moment in world history, thought there just might be a better way to a lasting peace – trying “citizen diplomacy” rather than “governmental diplomacy”, which had unfortunately resulted in continuing conflicts over the many centuries of humankind.
“Citizen diplomacy” in Eisenhower’s way of thinking was an actual “eyeball to eyeball” interfacing of everyday citizens, meeting personally on each others “turf” (in the U.S. and overseas); learning how each lived, carried on their daily lives, overcame whatever challenges they faced, to bring about an enhanced understanding, and thus respect, of all global citizens. It was envisioned this could be accomplished through exchanges (visitations) of citizens, engaged in the arts, business, civic activities (service clubs, boy/girl scouts, etc), education, sports and government.
Seven years later, in 1963, the Sister City Association of Sarasota SCAS) was formed under the leadership of Dallas Dort and Mayors Marshall Marable and John Binns and the Sarasota City Commission. Considered the “International Arm” of the city of Sarasota, SCAS is headquartered in Sarasota’s City Hall, overseen by the City Clerk and Auditor, and currently receives a stipend from the city which assists in enabling its extensive international citizen exchanges.
Our Sister Cities
Sarasota’s first sister city, circa 1963, was Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Citizen exchange visits began and a street was named in each city for the other community (the block-long Santo Domingo Avenue runs parallel to the Municipal Auditorium in downtown Sarasota). The initial relationship was viewed enthusiastically and cultural and commercial exchanges resulted in a fire truck, medicine, medical supplies and office equipment being sent from Sarasota; an internship was created by Mote Marine laboratories for a marine biologist; school equipment and books were sent to Santo Domingo following a devastating hurricane, County Commissioner David Mills traveled there to represent Sarasota at the Third Western Hemispheric Forum held in Santo Domingo and finally a baseball tournament involving teams from Hamilton, Canada, Santo Domingo and Sarasota was held. However, in later years, activity diminished for lack of citizen exchanges coming to Sarasota and Santo Domingo was placed in “emeritus” status (inactive) in 2002.
Because of the somewhat lanquid Santo Domingo relationship over many years, local interest in the sister cities movement was at a low point until Hope Byrnes as president and Senator Robert Johnson, board chair, assumed office in 1994. Just six short years later, before the end of the 20th century, four foreign cities “twinned” with Sarasota, including:
Hamilton, Canada (1990) (now emeritus)
Perpignan, France (1994)
Vladimir, Russia (1994)
Tel Mond, Israel (1999)
Since the year 2000, four additional cities have created a formal “sister city” relationship with the Sister City Association of Sarasota. They include:
Dunfermline, Scotland (2002)
Treviso, Italy (2007)
Siming District, Xiamen, China (2007)
Merida, Mexico (2011)
The SCAS Organization
SCAS maintains a 501©3 federal tax-exempt status; its expenditures are exempt from state sales tax upon presentation of “Consumer’s Certificate of Exemption” form. In recent years, SCAS, has revised its organizational structure to insure continual exchanges between Sarasota’s citizens and the citizens from its active sister cities, by creating an expanded board of directors, now including a president, secretary and treasurer; the position of “past president”, seven vice presidents, seven city directors, an “events coordinator” (who creates local events to keep our membership informed and interested), a “protocol director” to ensure we are aware of the proper manner in which to host foreign guests and a “youth representative” who keeps area youth informed and interested in international affairs and the work of SCAS.
While the president, secretary and treasurer conduct and record the meetings, business and finances of SCAS, the primary annual “exchanges”, the reason SCAS exists, are the responsibilities of the city directors, with major assistance from the vice presidents who are responsible for maintaining local contacts that can assist when our foreign visitors are in Sarasota.
SCAS operates under a defined set of bylaws, which include job descriptions for each position on the board. Frequent updates of these two documents help us keep pace with our rapidly changing world. For current documents, see
The SCAS is a longtime member of Sister Cities International (SCI), headquartered in Washington D.C. and a current SCAS member (Ronald Gossett) is a member of that board.
Special Events, International Awards
Among the most active “chapters” in Florida, the SCAS has hosted three Florida state annual conventions in May of the following years:
1995 . . . Directed by Hope Byrnes
2005 . . . Directed by Linda Rosenbluth
2013 . . . Directed by John (Tom) Halbert
Recognition by Sister Cities International has also come in three’s (to date)
1998 . . . Best Youth Program Award (Video Boot Camp)
All five sister cities involved
2002 . . . Best Overall Program Award (Dunfermline Signing Ceremony)
All five sister cities involved
2014 . . . First Prize: Innovation: Energy/Sustainability Development - Directed by VP Ray Young
Three families heavily involved in the Perpignan Sarasota Sister Cities alliance spent a total of more than three weeks in Sarasota participating in several events, including theInternational Sustainability conference. One of the families was home hosted. A Sarasota Sister Cities member (Marie des Neige Grossas) spent the summer in Perpignan and had very productive meetings with Perpignan representatives.
Tel Mond is located in the beautiful Sharon Valley. Although it is a regional center, it is surrounded by orange groves in a lovely pastoral setting. Like Sarasota, it is a growing community which supports cultural interests. Tel Mond was founded in 1929 by Sir Alfred Moritz Mond, a former British president of the British Zionist Federation. In the beginning there was only sand. The first settlers arrived from Eastern Europe. In 1948, the second major wave of immigrants came from the Arab lands of Iran, Iraq, and Yemen. In 1982, Tel Mond became part of a program called Project Renewal conceived by then Prime Minister Manachen Begin. Project Renewal was formed to rehabilitate distressed areas of the country.
In 1995, Sarasota Mayor David Merrill encouraged Sarasota to explore including Tel Mond in the SCAS program. In March 1998, the International Sister Cities meeting was held in Jerusalem and Sarasota Mayor Gene Pillot went to Tel Mond with some Sarasota residents for a meeting with Moshe Babel-Pour (Executive Director of Matnas Center in Tel Mond), and Shlomo Ratzabi (Tel Mond Mayor) for the official signing of the proclamation to establish a permanent relationship between the two cities. In 1999, Mayor Shlomo Ratzabi headed a delegation to Sarasota to complete the official Sister City proclamation process with Sarasota Mayor Mollie Cardamore. Sarasota and Tel Mond residents have had many exchanges.
In the 1980s and 1990s, high school students from Tel Mond were camp counselors in Sarasota. In the 1990s, college students from Sarasota were camp counselors in Tel Mond. Many trips have been coordinated by various groups in Sarasota to visit Israel and Tel Mond is often on the itinerary. Singing and dance groups from Tel Mond have performed in Sarasota for large audiences at the Van Wezel and the Bea Friedman Auditorium as well as area schools.
In 1996, Tel Mond resident Bat-Chen was killed on her 15th birthday by a suicide bomber in Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Center. Bat-Chen had always wanted to be a writer. After her death, her parents gathered her diaries and published a book. Her mother visited Sarasota and spoke about her daughter’s book in Sarasota’s schools and community. In 2001, students participated in Pen Pal programs, City In A Box program, and four Tel Mond students became the first international winners of Florida Studio’s Young Playwright Festival.
In 2004, Tel Mond participated in a Children’s Art Exhibition at Ringling College of Art and Design.
In 2005, Sid Krupkin, a SCAS member, and Elie Matstree of Tel Mond combined to compose “Sarasota and Tel Mond” and became the first Sarasota Sister City to have a song written about the relationship between the two cities.
In 2006, Tel Mond was the first international city to participate in the Embracing Our Differences exhibit on Sarasota’s Bayfront and has had several winners over the years.
In 2007, a Sarasota resident visited a Tel Mond home filled with photographs of Tel Mond. These photos prompted the idea to have a photo contest among Sarasota and all of its Sister Cities. In 2009, the 60 winning international photos were displayed at a “People and Places” exhibit at the Ringling College of Art and Design. Currently, 16 of these photos hang in the Sarasota City Hall.
In 2013, SCAS hosted an International Conference on “Sustainability through Renewable Energy & Aquaculture” at the University of South Florida in Sarasota. Representatives from six of our nine sister cities and from four area colleges and universities gave presentations at the conference. Over 300 people were in attendance. The theme for the first day of the conference was Sustainability Concepts and Practices; in this session Professor Ori Lahav, the Sister City delegate for Tel Mond provided an enlightening presentation on “Improving the Quality of Desalinated Seawater”. Professor Lahav is planning to develop cooperative work with Dr. Kevan Main, the Director of the Mote Marine Laboratory Aquaculture Facility in Sarasota.
In April 2014, a group of thirteen visitors participated in a special SCAS delegation to Tel Mond and other parts of Israel. The group met with Mayor Roni Golan, Council members, and various members of the community. Meeting with the group, Mayor Golan pledged an active relationship with Sarasota and Tel Mond. The delegation shared a unique Shabbat experience with families in Tel Mond. A special ceremony recognized the previous winners of the Florida Studio Theatre Young Playwrights program. Certificates were presented to the former winners and the teacher who led the program.
Giliads mother had a big bowl of Bomba his favorite snack food waiting for him on his arrival (Bomba is like our cheese curls in the US but it is made out of peanuts and sometimes is filled with peanut butter or chocolate).
Dallas Dort 1963-1967