The Sister City Association of Sarasota 

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

Bill Wallace, 

Past President

Perpignan, France

Exchanges 2005 -  2013

Sarasota    ­Perpignan


In association with our Alliance Member, Alliance Francaise, we helped find an intern from the Perpignan area who is spending four months as an intern at Alliance Francaise. Four young students from Perpignan spent two weeks with home host families in Sarasota and attended classes at Pine View. A university of Perpignan professor, Xavier Py, spent a week in Sarasota as apresenter and participant at the Sarasota Sister Cities International Sustainability Conference.

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.


Two students from Perpignan spent two weeks during the summer in Sarasota aspart of a family to family exchange. A student from Perpignan was home hosted with a family in Sarasota as part of a Family to Family Exchange and the Sarasota student spent two weeks with the Perpignan student's family


Seven SSCA members were invited to attend, as guests, the dedication and opening of the grand new performing arts center in Perpignan, and also had meetings with the Perpignan Chamber of Commerce, the University of Perpignan's solar energy department, the dedication of a very large solar panel array in the Saint Charles Distribution center, a luncheon meeting with Perpignan business leaders and a reception/dinner with representatives of Perpignan's other sister cities from Israel, Algeria, Germany, and England.


A graduate student from Perpignan came to Florida to attend graduate school, and to work. Through SSCA he found a job and a place to live, as well as transportation. Eighteen Riverview students spent thanksgiving vacation hosted by families in Perpignan. The students attended classes at Lycee Pablo Picasso, and toured the Pyrenees Oriental. Some of the Sarasota students experienced snow, and saw mountains for the first timein their lives.

Two representatives of SSCA spent several weeks in Perpignan meeting with city officials , teachers and Lycee Pablo Picasso students who were guests of SSCA in the fall of 2009.


Two SSCA members spent several weeks in Perpignan working with city officials, teachers and others to plan the 2009 fall exchange for Lycee Pablo Picasso students to spend a week in Sarasota. From November 7­ 15, 2009, Twenty four Lycee Pablo Picasso students and four teachers spent the week in Sarasota deeply immersed in educational, tourism and the arts of Sarasota. All of the students and teachers were home hosted.


Eight students, along with two chaperons, representing several of the Sarasota high schools and the Sarasota Sailor Circus, were guests of the City of Perpignan as part of a week ­long Catalan Culture Festival. The Sarasota students were all experienced in performing arts, and as part of the festival they had to create their own performances. An engineering student, who came to Sarasota as part of a work study program, needed help finding a place to live, and transportation. When he arrived at the Sarasota airport he was met and shown around the city. SSCA members stayed in touch with him and hosted him on several occasions. He is still in periodic communication with us, which is one of the rewards of involvement in SSCA


An SSCA group of 25 participants toured Perpignan, Barcelona, Carcassonne, and the Pyreenes Oriental. The City of Perpignan hosted a welcome dinner and a farewell reception. Some of the travelers chose home hosting.


Two members of the Sarasota/Perpignan committee traveled to Perpignan and spent a week working with officials on future exchanges.


Two Sarasota Sister City / Perpignan committee members had an initial meeting with Perpignan officials to discuss the then current status of the relationship and future possibilities.


 Visit to Perpignan by Mayor Palmer and Barbara Hopkins

Harry Dunn 
12.02, 2013

Tel Mond, Israel

Sister Cities Association of Sarasota (SCAS) has eight sister cities. Tel Mond Israel is one of Sarasota’s eight sister cities. The mission of Sister Cities Association of Sarasota is to foster international relationships between Sarasota and cities that have similar interests by creating exchanges in areas of culture, education, tourism, business, and government.

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. 

Tel Mond was twinned with the Jewish community of Sarasota. Coordination, visitations, exchanges, and dialogue between many citizens in the community brought a new understanding to relationships within both communities. This commitment was extended through various visits and special projects. 

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 1998, Sister Cities International selected the SCAS Video Boot Camp as the Best Youth Program Camp. The Video Boot Camp involved students from Santo Domingo, Hamilton, Perpignan, Vladimir, Tel Mond, and Sarasota. This camp was initially planned for Tel Mond to encourage its youth to enter the field of cable communications but was open to all of Sarasota’s Sister Cities. In the end, 20 students from the Sister Cities and four area Sarasota high schools were able to mesh their different cultures.

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. 


Linda Rosenbluth past president of SSCA and first City Director for Tel Mond, Israel and her husband, Bob, were visiting Tel Mond with Smadar Dromy, former chair of Tel

Mond’s Sister City Committee, on the day of Giliad Shalit’s release in October 2011.

The swap that traded 1000 Palestinians for one soldier was not without controversy within the general population of Israel. Despite the debate, Smadi’s comment Linda thought reflected the thoughts of all Israeli’s that day. Smadi said that it was like a stone was taken from everyone’s heart. On that day Giliad was everyone’s son. Signs and flags were out all over Israel welcoming Giliad home. Udi Segal, one of the students who visited Sarasota and is now a correspondent for Israel’s. Channel 2 news covered the event.

With her three children Smadi and Linda watched the controversial interview by Shahira Amin, Egypt’s most famous TV journalist, of Giliad on Egyption TV before his helicoper flight to an army base in northern Israel. On the plane Gilliad was checked by an Israeli IDF doctor.  Prime Mister Netanyhu, Defense Minister Barak, as well as his Mother and Father greeted Gilliad as he disembarked from the plane.

After a medical checkup Giliad was flown home where his neighbors welcomed him home with flags and signs along the road leading to his house and from the windows and porches along the way too.

Linda said each visit to Israel is special but this was a unique experience. It was a deeply emotional time in Israel and being among our friends in Tel Mond has enabled her to develop an even deeper understanding of life in Israel.

Two interesting facts

To protect the family’s privacy there was only one photographer and one videographer that were allowed to cover this event.

Any pictures or video had to be approved by the family.

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).

Linda Rosenbluth

Pictoral History

Gayle Maxey
We have a great pictoral history of Sarasota Sister Cities created by Gayle Maxey and Tom Halbert.

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