(Courtesy of TABC) Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is slated to headline Torah Academy of Bergen County’s virtual 38th annual dinner on Sunday, January 10. Israel tech blogger and startup advisor Hillel Fuld will offer words of inspiration as well as TABC honors and pay tribute to over 90 alumni who have served or are currently serving in the Israel Defense Forces.
The program came together over the last few months as a committee of dedicated lay leaders and staff contemplated ways to raise critical funds for the annual scholarship campaign amidst a global pandemic. With so many in the community hurting, and scholarship requests at an all-time high as a result, the challenge of running a successful campaign that would resonate with potential donors loomed large.
“It was clear from the beginning that because of the pandemic, whatever program we held would need to be virtual,” Sharon Rifkind, TABC’s director of institutional advancement, said. “And with so much Zoom fatigue, we’d need to think outside the box to get people to log on. Frankly, we needed a big idea.”
In October, Rifkind called upon a few creative-thinking colleagues and lay leaders for a virtual brainstorming session. “That first meeting we put it all out on the table,” she said. “We really threw out any ideas that came to mind, no matter how far-fetched they seemed.”
One name that kept coming up on that initial call was Nikki Haley. Her unwavering and emphatic support of Israel in her role as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and member of the U.N. Security Council had made her a popular household name in the Israel-supporting community. As the first female governor of South Carolina and the first Indian-American to serve in a presidential cabinet, her rise to prominence has brought her well-deserved recognition on both the national and international political stages, and certainly in the pro-Israel community.
“It turned out one of the volunteers on that initial call knew someone who had a connection to Haley. He recommended we write a letter to her about our school and its mission and ask her to speak,” Rifkind said. “He got our request to her and before we knew it, she said yes.”
From there, the rest of the program fell into place.
“For years, we had talked about honoring our alumni who have served in the IDF,” Rifkind said. “It always posed too many logistical issues with most of them living in Israel. But since we’re all coming together virtually this year anyway, it seemed like the perfect time.”
According to TABC’s Head of School Rabbi Shlomo Adelman: “These graduates embody to the fullest extent one of the core values of the TABC mission—to instill within our students an attachment to the State of Israel and its people, as well as a sense of responsibility for their welfare. We are so proud of these young men who volunteer to join their Israeli brothers and sisters in defending and protecting the Jewish State.”
To round out the program, TABC Board President Azi Mandel thought of an old friend from his yeshiva-in-Israel days. “Hillel Fuld and his late brother Ari are both inspiring examples of American olim who moved to Israel and impacted the people and places around them,” Mandel said. “Hillel is an enormously successful player in the Israeli tech world and an incredible ambassador for Israeli innovation.”
All members of the community are invited to “Honor Our Heroes” by signing up to view the virtual program and celebrate the important role TABC plays in educating and strengthening the future leaders of Am Yisrael and Klal Yisrael. All contributions go directly to the Bruce Ritholtz z”l Scholarship Fund, which distributed more than $1.3 million in financial assistance this year.
“Whether it’s a young American teen who voluntarily enlists in the IDF, a dedicated medical committee who devises a safe way to open our yeshiva for in-person learning, an incredible group of faculty and staff who devote themselves unconditionally to our sons, or 312 students who are making the best of a challenging year, there is no shortage of heroes to honor this year,” Mandel said.
For more information and to register for the program, please visit www.tabc.org/virtualdinner.