April 21, 2024
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April 21, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

NJ FIDF Dinner Raises $500K for ‘Our Heroes’

Pulling into the driveway of the elegant Venetian in Garfield on a snowy night, we couldn’t hide our enthusiasm for celebrating the heroes of Israel, the IDF soldiers, and their heroes, the supporters of the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF). Since its founding in New Jersey in 2005, FIDF has been supporting IDF soldiers through educational, cultural, recreational and social service programs and facilities that provide “hope, purpose and life-changing support for the soldiers who protect Israel and Jews worldwide.”

During the hour before the formal program commenced, we met impressive heroes on both sides, soldiers and supporters. I was drawn to a young female soldier in full uniform, sporting a head-covering. Anael, now 28, came to Israel alone from France at age 20. After a year of pre-army training on a kibbutz, she was drafted as a combat soldier into the selective canine unit of the IDF. During her three-year service in the unit responsible for locating explosives in dangerous terrain, she met her husband, who was serving in the same unit. The couple married after their service and were determined to establish a Dati-Leumi home. They now reside with their infant in a small community near Ariel, where Anael attends university. She is studying psychology and neuroscience with the goal of becoming a canine therapist for young people with various disabilities. Her studies are being underwritten by the Impact Scholarship provided by FIDF.

Anael commented enthusiastically, “Nothing can stop us from achieving our goals.”

At our table, we met Avi Oren, who introduced us to his IDF buddy Samuel Bar-Or. Both men served, together with several others at the dinner, as paratroopers in the IDF 50 years ago. The men are in the process of planning their 50th reunion. Bar-Or was drafted into the IDF as a lone soldier from Iran. He recalled how lonely he was and how few provisions there were back then for lone soldiers.

Residing in the U.S. in 2003 and 2004, Oren, Bar-Or and others from their unit funded five days of “fun” for thousands of IDF soldiers at a kibbutz near Caesarea. The event was covered by Israeli television and came to the attention of Brigadier General Yechiel Gozal, who was inspired by the idea. From there, the New Jersey branch of FIDF was formalized in 2005. Since then, these former IDF paratroopers have been generous supporters of NJ FIDF.

The formal program began with greetings by New Jersey Director of FIDF Howard Gases, who welcomed the participants and reminded them of the motto of the FIDF: “Their job is to look after us; our job is to look after them.” Master of Ceremonies Siggy Flicker, TV personality, motivational speaker and author, followed. Flicker is the daughter of Dr. Mordechai Paldiel, noted Holocaust historian and former head of the Righteous Among the Nations Division of Yad Vashem, who was among the attendees. She introduced three heroes of the IDF, first through video and then in person.

Lieutenant Colonel Sharon, now 37, has served in a combat unit in the IDF for the past 20 years, commanding over 500 soldiers. Recently he participated in the FIDF Witness in Uniform trip to Poland, through which representatives of every branch of the IDF visit the killing sites of the Holocaust as proud defenders of Israel and the Jewish people.

Sharon shared, “No amount of missiles will force Israel to give up. Today we have a country that will not allow another Holocaust.”

Staff Sergeant Stav joined the IDF following in the footsteps of his father, who served in the Golani unit. After his father’s tragic death in battle in Lebanon, Stav volunteered to serve as a counselor in the Legacy Program of the FIDF, which provides bar/bat mitzvah-aged youngsters who have lost relatives serving in the IDF with a fun-filled summer of touring through the U.S.

Staff Sergeant Hila joined a special paramedics unit in the IDF in 2016. Inspired by her parents, who served as military doctors and are now practicing physicians, Hila now serves in the armored corps. Through her courage, skill and quick thinking, she saved the life of a fellow soldier seriously wounded on the Gaza border. Hila is most grateful to the supporters of FIDF who underwrite much-needed and appreciated weeks of rest and relaxation at resorts throughout the country for active IDF soldiers.

Under the enthusiastic guidance of Flicker, the program turned to the “auctioning” of support for six key projects of FIDF, each at a different cost. Audience members responded to appeals for the support of the Impact Scholarship, the Wounded Soldiers Fund, the Legacy Program, the Witness in Uniform Program, the Flights Home Program for Lone Soldiers and the Holiday Vouchers Program. Through the overwhelming response of love and generosity, $500K was raised for the FIDF!

To conclude the evening, the audience was treated to an interview with Rona Lee Shim’on, star of the international Israeli series turned Netflix hit Fauda. Shim’on plays the role of Nurit, the sole female member of an elite undercover IDF unit. When questioned by Flicker about the ramifications of the international fame of the series, Shim’on responded, “Playing Nurit was a spiritual experience for me and I was honored to do so. The series gave us an opportunity to convey to the world the human elements behind the Israel-Arab conflict and the many complicated layers beneath it that hopefully will help lead to a peaceful solution.”

To learn more about the many ongoing projects of FIDF, and sponsorship opportunities, visit www.FIDF.org �or call 646-274-9646.

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