Last August the Israeli Consulate General to the Southeast was threatened with closure. This August it will become bigger than ever.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs notified Ambassador Judith Varnai Shorer in late April that Kentucky, West Virginia and Missouri are being added to her area of operations as part of the shakeout from the closure of the consulate in Philadelphia in a budget-cutting move.
“The consulate expansion is a nice present to Israel for its 68th birthday, and we are delighted with this new juncture,” Shorer said. Kentucky and West Virginia have been part of Philadelphia’s Mid-Atlantic region, while Missouri is switching from Chicago’s oversight.
The initial budget that proposed closing the Philadelphia office also called for shutting the Atlanta and San Francisco consulates, along with several embassies. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet gave first approval to that spending plan Aug. 6, sparking months of nervousness that Israel would be left with no diplomatic presence between Miami and Houston 50 years after elevating its Atlanta office to a consulate.
Shorer, who had just taken office as consul general when the threat to the consulate emerged, led a behind-the-scenes fight to save the mission.
It wasn’t until Jan. 6, more than six weeks after the Knesset approved the final budget, that the consulate was officially spared.
As of Aug. 15, the consulate’s territory will expand, as will its staff: Two new hires are planned to help serve the three new states, which join Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas under Atlanta’s oversight.
“With the consulate expansion, we will not only be in the Deep South, but will cover states in more middle America. There is no doubt that Atlanta in a sense will remain the center,” Shorer said. “We want the consulate’s work that we have been doing here to reflect what we want to gain with these changes and opportunities that we have with these new states.”
But just as the Southeastern Conference hasn’t changed its name while expanding over the years, including encompassing Missouri, so the Israeli Consulate General to the Southeast is keeping its identity.