Some 600 leaders from the Long Island community gathered at Fresh Meadow Country Club in Lake Success for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Long Island Annual Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Appreciation Evening, raising $1.2 million to support well-being and educational programs for the brave men and women of the IDF on Thursday, Sept. 29.
Speaking at the dinner were active-duty IDF soldiers, including Sergeant “J,” a Lone Soldier from Brooklyn who serves in an IDF special operations unit; Staff Sergeant Mishel, a Christian Arab-Israeli paramedic who treats victims of the ongoing Syrian civil war; and FIDF IMPACT! scholarship recipient Staff Sergeant (Res.) Daniel, whose college education is sponsored by the Long Island community.
Also speaking was Sivan Bar-Or, the widow of Major Tzafrir Bar-Or Z’’L, who commanded a special operations reconnaissance unit in the IDF’s elite Golani Brigade and was killed in battle during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.
The evening celebrated diversity in the IDF, which acts as a melting pot for Israeli society and includes men and women of many ethnicities, religions and backgrounds. Ninety-two percent of jobs in the Israeli military are open to women, with some 1,500 women drafted to combat roles every year, while LGBT soldiers serve openly. The IDF boasts representation from all of Israel’s religions, including Jews, Christians, Muslims and Druze, and foreign-born men and women from 80 countries around the world serve as Lone Soldiers—service members with no immediate family in Israel. Despite being exempt from mandatory service, those with mental or physical disabilities may volunteer to serve in the IDF as well.
“This event gave the Long Island community the chance to meet and celebrate the brave soldiers—Jews, Christians, Muslims and Druze—who defend Israel and Jews around the world,” said FIDF National Board Member and Long Island Chairman Ronny Ben-Josef. “It was an amazing way for supporters to learn more about the tremendous impact FIDF’s programs have—and to truly connect with some of the people who benefit from those programs.”
Chairing the dinner was Edeed Ben-Josef. The dinner also honored longtime FIDF supporters Rachel and Howard Hershenhorn, Freddi and Harvey Kadden, and Amy and Marc Puntus for their dedication to Israel’s troops. Presiding as the evening’s master of ceremonies was Michelle Ahdoot.
Other distinguished guests included FIDF National Chairman Arthur Stark; FIDF National Director and CEO Major General (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir; FIDF Tristate Executive Director Galit Brichta; and FIDF Long Island Director Liron Kreitman.
FIDF was established by a group of Holocaust survivors in 1981 as a nonprofit organization to offer educational, cultural, recreational and social programs and facilities that provide hope, purpose and life-changing support for the soldiers who protect Israel and Jews worldwide. Today, FIDF has more than 150,000 supporters and 16 regional offices throughout the U.S. and Panama, and supports IDF soldiers, families of fallen soldiers and wounded veterans through innovative programs that reinforce the bond between the communities in the United States, the soldiers of the IDF and the State of Israel. For more information, visit www.fidf.org.