On August 17, 2022, the Rhode Island Israel Collaborative (RIIC) hosted a dinner and networking event to celebrate the fifth anniversary of its founding. RIIC was founded by CEO Avi Nevel in 2017, to grow commercial, academic, and research connections between Rhode Island and Israel. The RIIC has connected individuals, startups, and major corporations, growing dozens of productive international partnerships in the process.
The RIIC is a 501 (c) (3) (6) all volunteer chamber of commerce.
The event was held at the Squantum Association in Riverside, Rhode Island; it was attended by more than 90 people, who enjoyed drinks and hors d’oeuvres ahead of a slate of speakers that included Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee and Israel Consul General to New England, Ambassador Meron Reuben. Acting as the evening’s emcee, RIIC board member Miriam Ross introduced the entire RIIC board and spoke about the early ties between Rhode Island and Israel, which date back more than 160 years.
Ross introduced Governor McKee as “a steadfast friend to our organization.” In his remarks, McKee first acknowledged Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos, who was also in attendance, before speaking in praise of the RIIC and its work in “bringing [Rhode Island and Israel] together in a way that benefits us all.” McKee presented Nevel with a certificate of special recognition, from “a personal friend and from the people of Rhode Island;” Nevel returned the gesture by presenting McKee with a plaque from the RIIC, and thanked him for “always having a door open, and for always being welcoming to [the RIIC].”
Israel Consul General and Ambassador Meron Reuben was next to speak, congratulating the RIIC for all it has accomplished “in only five years, two of which were under COVID.” Reuben pledged the Consulate’s ongoing support, saying, “We will continue to be there, side-by-side, to do whatever we can for RIIC.” Reuben was followed by Oscar Mejias, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which had previously partnered with RIIC and Israeli tech company WIX in 2020 for the RI Latino Web Project. After many local successes, that project is now poised for a nationwide trial.
Mejias also hinted at another, upcoming collaboration with RIIC, and was followed with a recorded video greeting from Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce Liz Tanner, who offered congratulations and thanks, calling RIIC’s work “truly visionary” and noting efforts that “have led to economic progress for both Israel and Rhode Island.”
These greetings were followed by a dinner of Israeli-themed cuisine. Wine was donated by Royal Wine Corp., Israeli winery Shiloh Winery with roots in Rhode Island, and live entertainment was provided by Israeli accordionist, Sam Gavish.
The meal was followed by a recorded greeting from former Rhode Island Governor and current U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo, who offered congratulations on RIIC’s milestone anniversary. She noted how the organization “led the effort to strengthen ties between Rhode Island and Israel,” and acknowledged the value of the partnerships created by these collaborations.
Raimondo’s video was followed by in-person remarks from former Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce, Stefan Pryor, who spoke proudly about Rhode Island’s number-two position in leading the nation’s post-COVID economic recovery. He said, “Rhode Island is leading the way, and RIIC is a big part of it,” and noted that “innovation is at the heart of these efforts, and it matters that we have an engine like RIHub,” referring to the Providence-based startup incubator whose partnership with RIIC is responsible for their successful “Bridge to Israel” program.
Israeli Economic Minister to North America, Anat Katz spoke next, praising the RIIC by saying, “When you see something that flourishes, you try to figure out why. I think the vital ingredients are the people.” Katz spoke further about the RIIC’s “outstanding people,” saying that “there is one thing at the core of the Collaborative: neshama – soul. This is the reason why this is successful.”
Nevel was last to speak, saying that he felt “very humbled” by the previous speakers’ acclaim for the organization’s work. He thanked everyone in the room, emphasizing that each person in attendance had contributed in some way to RIIC’s success. He reflected, “it’s hard to believe it’s been five years. It feels like yesterday,” as he presented a slide show of RIIC highlights and success stories and expressed his confidence in the work still to come.
“It’s not what we do,” Nevel said, “it’s what others do because of us. It’s about making that connection.” He closed by encouraging guests to become RIIC members or volunteers, and closed with, “Tomorrow morning, we’re going to start on our next five years. Thank you for being partners on this journey.”
An award ceremony followed, with certificates of recognition given to individuals who had been significant contributors to RIIC’s success over the last five years. The night ended with networking, as invitees from universities, U.S. and Israeli government, hospitals, chambers of commerce, tech startups, and more mingled and made new contacts and plans for the future.
Award recipients included:
Daniel Agranov, Deputy Israel Consul General to New England
Adi Goldstein, Deputy Attorney General Rhode Island, CoFounder of the Rhode Island Israel Collaborative (RIIC)
Paulette Hamilton, Special Projects, Governor’s Office Rhode Island
Stefan Pryor, Former Commerce Secretary of Rhode Island
Lisa Raiola. Founder of Hope & Main
Evan Smith, President & CEO of Discover Newport
Kathy Therieau, Former International Trade Director of Rhode Island
The evening ended with a video: A lighthearted look at RIIC’s next 10- year anniversary opening remarks
Pictures from the RIIC 5-year celebration