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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

New Jersey FIDF Celebrates Bar Mitzvah Gala at Marriott Glenpointe

The mantra of the gala bar mitzvah event of the New Jersey Chapter of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) was “Their job is to look after Israel; our job is to look after them.” That theme ran throughout the evening as presentations were made and videos shown illustrating the many vital and meaningful educational, cultural, recreational and social services provided by FIDF to the soldiers who protect Israel and the Jewish people worldwide.

Over 450 people from communities within New Jersey gathered at the Marriott Glenpointe Hotel in Teaneck on Sunday evening, December 10, to honor these brave soldiers, Israeli natives as well as lone soldiers from around the world. Throughout the cocktail reception, young, uniformed IDF men and women mingled with the attendees, some of whom were family and friends. The feeling of support and camaraderie was felt in the room, which was adorned with a Wall of Fame featuring the pictures of over 100 young men and women from New Jersey who served or are currently serving as lone soldiers.

The formal portion of the evening was emceed by Lance Drucker, whose son holds the rank of sergeant in the IDF. Drucker thanked the many people at the helm of FIDF, including Howard Gases, New Jersey director of FIDF, and the many New Jersey families that served on the dinner committee for the event. Among those families were Shelly and Steve Talmud from East Brunswick, whose two sons, Adam and Jesse, served in the IDF. At the invitation of Gases, they joined the committee six years ago and have been active ever since.

Jesse Talmud, 25, shared many of the generous and comforting programs provided by the FIDF. Talmud attended Solomon Schechter in East Brunswick. He remembers being very much aware of current events in Israel throughout his schooling. Having grandparents who settled in Israel after the Holocaust made his feelings of attachment even greater. During his gap year in Israel he studied at Hebrew University and volunteered at a school for special needs in Kfar Chasidim. It was during that year that Jesse made a decision to enlist in the IDF. After completing his BA in anthropology at Binghamton University, he returned to Israel to begin the process of enlisting. Jesse served two years in the Nahal infantry division, during which time he was stationed in Gaza, Gush Etzion and Chevron, among other locations.

As a lone soldier in the IDF, Jesse was a beneficiary of several of the special services provided by FIDF, including an apartment to which to return on weekends and days off. The apartment was furnished and included appliances and food items. Periodically, FIDF sponsored eagerly awaited days of rest and relaxation for the lone soldiers at lovely facilities. These interludes gave the lone soldiers renewed energy and enthusiasm upon their return to service. Once yearly, FIDF sponsored a trip home to the States for the lone soldiers, an invaluable show of appreciation to the soldiers themselves and to the families who support them in their service.

Throughout the evening, additional programs of the FIDF were presented through moving personal testimonies. Maor Cohen, an Israeli native, served in the Duvdevani Unit of the IDF, one of the most risky divisions of the IDF that tracks terrorists within dangerous areas. After completion of his service, he very much wanted to fulfill his and his father’s dream of pursuing higher education. Realistically, this was only a dream as the family finances were incapable of supporting this expense. Through the FIDF IMPACT! Program, Cohen’s higher education was funded. Today he holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees and is the creator of his own international startup called Pickspace. Cohen is forever indebted to the supporters of FIDF for their role in his future and the futures of over 11,000 students who have benefited from IMPACT! scholarships.

Words of inspiration were shared by Sergeant Ziv, 21, who serves on the Syrian border as a paramedic. Videos of the efforts of the IDF in securing the border and ensuring the safety and well-being of Syrian refugees were astounding. Ziv concluded her remarks by urging, “May we always keep our unity. This is our greatest strength.”

The six pillars upon which FIDF bases its support of the IDF include education, which arms soldiers with the potential for productive futures; fallen soldiers, which provides comfort and respite for families of victims; financial relief for soldiers and their families to lighten their financial burdens; construction of recreational and well being facilities on IDF bases, and programs that support wounded and traumatized soldiers to give them a sense of community; lone soldier support throughout their service and trips home; and adopt-a-brigade, which boosts the morale and spirit of individual units within the IDF.

Drucker conducted a formalized appeal to the audience for donations to the vital projects of FIDF. In less than one hour, the audience’s pledges amounted to $950,000, with more to come. The pledges came with short tributes by the donors to those in whose honor or memories they were donating. One memorable donation came from a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor who pledged $3,600 toward an FIDF summer camp for children of fallen soldiers.

The program concluded with a presentation in the form of a dialogue between the two co-creators of the Netflix hit show “Fauda.” Avi Issacharoff and star Lior Raz regaled the audience with the story of the creation of the series, its slow start and then meteoric rise to one of the top 10 best shows of the season, according to the New York Times. Broadcast in 192 countries, the series explores the perspectives of both the Israeli and Palestinian sides for Israeli and Western audiences. The two are currently addressing the issue of PTSD in soldiers in training, as well as during and after their service.

To contribute to the invaluable services that FIDF provides for our young soldiers, contact www.fidf.org or call 1-888-318-3433.

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