Seth Penn, Consul General Anat Sultan-Dadon and Chief Larry Smith at a November 2021 ceremony.
The Alabama-Israel Task Force will honor Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker and Chief Larry Smith of the Cherokee Tribe of Northeast Alabama at an Alabama-Israel Leadership Gala honoring Israel’s 75th birthday.
The event will also mark the 80th anniversary of the historic resolution passed by the Alabama Legislature in 1943, making Alabama the first state to call for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the land of Israel.
The event will be at The Epicenter in Tanner, just north of Decatur, on April 29 at 7 p.m.
Eeki Elner, founder and director of the Israel Leadership Institute in Sderot, will present the Israel Leadership Awards, which were selected by the AITF steering committee and the ILI board. The Institute identifies, recruits, trains, mentors and nurtures the future generation of Israeli leaders, integrating its graduates into leadership positions throughout society.
In announcing the event, the AITF said they nominated the honorees “having witnessed first-hand their exceptional work and leadership on behalf of the Alabama-Israel relationship” in the case of Parker, and Smith “in bringing two indigenous peoples together.”
There will also be a special presentation to Anat Sultan-Dadon, Israel’s Consul General to the Southeast, based in Atlanta.
Parker has been chief justice of the state’s Supreme Court since 2018, having served on the court since 2004. He has been active in the Alabama-Israel relationship for years, hosting events for visiting Israeli dignitaries in his judicial office. He and his wife, Dottie, were married in Israel, and in 1995 Dottie sang “Hatikvah” at the gubernatorial inauguration of her cousin, Fob James, accompanied by the Montgomery Symphony.
In 2021, Parker contacted AITF and Church for Israel to help encourage passage of a resolution supporting Israel and condemning Hamas rocket attacks.
In October 2021, the Northeast Alabama Cherokee held a ceremony recognizing Israel and its “eternal undivided capital” of Jerusalem. The initiative was started by Seth Penn, who first brought the idea to Smith.
Because the ceremony was during Sukkot, Sultan-Dadon was unable to attend, but AITF co-founder Laura King, former national chair of the Jewish Federations of North America’s Network of small Jewish communities, represented the Consulate. A couple months later, Sultan-Dadon attended another event to meet the tribe.
During the October ceremony, Pastor Patrick Penn of the Dwelling Place in Huntsville and the father of Seth Penn, noted that as a Zoom call was taking place among tribal leaders to discuss the Israel resolution, Parker was in Oxford at a gathering of First Nations. As chief justice, the pastor said Parker “stood up and repented to the First Nation people for the decisions that were made” by the state in the past.
The gala will raise funds for the AITF’s Alabama-Israel Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response initiative with the Israel Leadership Institute. Through the initiative, ILI has launched several initiatives from Sderot by Gaza to Kiryat Shmona on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.
Reservations are $75, with sponsorships available at the $500 and $1,000 level. The evening includes kosher heavy hors d’oeuvres and desserts, and doors will open at 6 p.m. for photo opportunities with the honorees.
The AITF was established in 2014 with leadership from the Christian and Jewish communities “to provide a bridge and catalyst for broader cooperative efforts and help cultivate an even stronger and expanding state-to-state relationship between Alabama and Israel for the mutual benefit of their people.”
In 2017, the AITF presented the Israel Leadership Award to Governor Kay Ivey at an event marking the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification.