May 29, 2024
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Friends of the IDF NJ Benefit Raises Nearly $1 Million to Support Israeli Soldiers

Parsippany—More than 450 members of the New Jersey Jewish community gathered Monday, Nov. 21, for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) New Jersey Chapter Annual Tribute Dinner, which raised nearly $1 million to support well-being and educational programs for the brave men and women of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

The gala at the Sheraton Parsippany Hotel included a special salute to N.J. natives serving as “Lone Soldiers” — those who immigrate to Israel without immediate family in order to serve in the IDF.

The evening, which has become one of the Jewish community’s biggest events, featured a keynote speech by journalist and anti-Islamic extremism activist Brigitte Gabriel. A Maronite Christian who was born in Lebanon, Gabriel survived the Lebanon Civil War thanks to the IDF’s incursion into Southern Lebanon in 1978.

“I was born and raised in what used to be the Paris of the Middle East, but as the Muslim population grew, the balance of power changed. Radical Islamists bombed my home and buried me under the rubble as they shouted, ‘Allahu Akbar!’ As I lay in the hospital, I asked my father why they did this to us, and he told me it was because we were Christians,” said Gabriel.

“In our heads, Israel was the enemy, but, under fire, we learned who our real friends were. Not only does the Israel Defense Forces serve and protect its people, but the IDF also remains the most moral army in the world — a shining light in the darkest corner of the world — even as it fights on the front lines against the vicious scourge of terrorism.”

Also attending and participating in the evening’s program were IDF soldiers, including active-duty and former Lone Soldiers Sgt. Ari of West Orange; Sgt. Toren of Livingston; Cpl. Keren of Englewood; Cpl. Eliana of Teaneck; and former Sgt. Gideon Drucker, a Woodcliff Lake native who served as a Lone Soldier in the IDF’s Paratroopers Brigade. Other IDF soldiers in attendance included Staff Sgt. (Res.) Oran Almog, who survived a terrorist attack at a Haifa restaurant in 2004 that killed several members of his family and left him blind before he volunteered to join the IDF Intelligence Corps despite his injuries; 1st Lt. (Res.) Sivan, an Ethiopian Israeli who served as an officer in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit despite her extremely rough childhood; Maj. “H.,” one of the first women helicopter pilots to complete combat aviation training; and IDF combat veterans whose higher educations are sponsored by the FIDF IMPACT! Scholarship Program.

FIDF’s New Jersey Chapter — often referred to as the “Lone Soldier Chapter” — was co-founded by FIDF National Board Member Sammy Bar-Or, who moved to Israel from Iran when he was 13 and served as a Lone Soldier in the IDF’s Paratroopers Brigade.

“When I served, there was no real understanding of what it meant to be a Lone Soldier,” said Bar-Or. “Life is very difficult for IDF soldiers without immediate family in Israel. Supporting the well-being of Lone Soldiers is a personal calling — and a very important part of FIDF’s mission.”

Other distinguished guests included FIDF National Chairman Arthur Stark; FIDF National Board member Melinda Lowell Paltrow; Jodi and Saul Scherl, of Englewood, who chair the newly formed FIDF New Jersey Chapter Board; past FIDF National Board Member Josef “Chick” Paradis, who is a veteran of the IDF; Lance Drucker, of Woodcliff Lake, who presided as the dinner’s master of ceremonies; FIDF National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir; FIDF Tri-State Executive Director Galit Brichta; and FIDF New Jersey Director Howard Gases.

“Each year our annual dinner grows, proving the tremendous impact these events have on connecting our supporters with the brave soldiers who benefit from FIDF programs,” said Gases. “We were honored to host Ms. Gabriel, whose story and unwavering support for Israel’s soldiers is truly inspiring.”

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