Above: Tom Glaser, for whom Conexx’s Leadership Award is named, extols Anita Zucker.

A crowd of 250 convened in the Lobby Ballroom adjacent to the Twelve Hotel in Atlantic Station on Thursday night, June 2, to celebrate the 15th annual Eagle Star Awards for Conexx: America Israel Business Connector.

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, resplendent in white bucks and seersucker suit, was enthusiastic in the cocktail hour about his attendance at the past several Conexx events. “We are doing great work with Israel- and Sandy Springs-based companies. Sandy Springs has a sister area in the Western Galilee of 11 communities, including Akko. We expect an Israeli delegation in September for idea sharing in technology, health care and tourism.”

The double-sided buffet is beautifully displayed.

The double-sided buffet is beautifully displayed.

After a hearty double-sided buffet, the audience experienced a somber moment when Mark Cohen accepted an award on behalf of the Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management and paid tribute to Taylor Force, the Vanderbilt student who was fatally stabbed by a terrorist while on a university trip to Israel in March.

Guy Tessler, the president of Conexx, extolled the organization’s reach the past two years amid spiraling growth in the Southeast: “It’s not just Atlanta, but Gainesville, Birmingham, etc. We are opening new doors and inspiring minority Arabs to get involved in the Start-Up Nation … and urging women to get involved in Conexx. We are looking for more unique ways to expand, like sports, dining and entertainment ideas for interchange.”

A video began the introduction to hardworking Anita Zucker, the recipient of the 2016 Tom Glaser Leadership Award: “To know her is to love her. Her talk results in action, tikkun olam and major inroads into improving education.”

Zucker, whose parents were Holocaust survivors, said, “Our family came initially to Jacksonville with basically nothing.”

Jane Robelot, a former news anchor who also covered the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, was an upbeat emcee who settled into a one-on-one interview with Zucker.

Alan Lubel poses with Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, who says an Israeli delegation is coming to his city in September to discuss business opportunities.

Alan Lubel poses with Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, who says an Israeli delegation is coming to his city in September to discuss business opportunities.

Zucker, the only billionaire in South Carolina, was commanding yet understated in a simple black dress and pumps. With values based in faith, family and education, she emphasized research and sharing — “connecting Tel Aviv to the University of South Carolina, Weizmann Institute to Roper Mountain Science Center (in Greenville, S.C.), and the Technion and beyond.”

A former schoolteacher, Zucker took over as CEO and chair of the InterTech Group with her son, Jonathan, when her husband, Jerry, a chemical engineer and entrepreneur, died in 2008.

She stressed Charleston’s growth — 25,000 new jobs expected in the next five years — and the importance of women getting involved to make an impact. Zucker, who has cousins in Atlanta and Israel, is on the board of trustees of her alma mater, the University of Florida.

At the dessert reception after the presentations, Zucker said: “I am proud of the work South Carolina does with higher education, projects and innovation. The key is Israeli companies being co-located in our state and abroad.”

Photos by Michael Rosser except where noted