By Rochelle Maruch Miller
The Friends of the IDF (FIDF) together with the president of the New York Yankees, Randy Levine, and his wife, Mindy, raised over $100,000 at a recent fundraising event to support soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces. Over 60 prominent lay leaders and FIDF supporters who are also Yankees fans, including FIDF National Director Major General (Res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon, gathered in a private suite in Yankee Stadium. They joined the IDF soldiers for a tour of the stadium and had the opportunity to view batting practice before watching the Yankees defeat the Toronto Blue Jays 6–3. “I am very honored to be a part of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces,” said Randy Levine. “I believe it is essential to support the courageous men and women of the Oketz Unit and their military working dogs who sacrifice a great deal to keep their borders and their country safe and secure.”
The event raised $100,000 for the Oketz Unit, the canine special forces unit of the IDF. The money raised will provide a much needed R & R week for the unit in the coming fall season. It will also be used to support well-being needs of the soldiers, including clothing, backpacks, and fleeces.
FIDF was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors as a 501C3 not-for-profit organization with the mission of providing and supporting educational, social, cultural, and recreational programs for the heroic men and women of the IDF. Today FIDF has more than 120,000 loyal supporters and there are 14 regional offices throughout the United States and one in Latin America. FIDF proudly offers its support to the IDF soldiers and their families through a variety of unique and innovative programs. These opportunities reinforce the vital bond between the communities in the United States, the soldiers of the IDF, and the State of Israel.
Among the attendees gracing the event was Arthur Stark, chairman emeritus of the FIDC’s board of directors. Mr. Stark, who is chairperson of the national FIDF gala dinner, which will take place on March 12, 2013 at the Waldorf Astoria, has been actively involved with the organization, participating in an FIDF Mission to Israel over a decade ago. That trip would greatly impact not just Mr. Stark, but his entire family. As his son Adam approached becoming a bar mitzvah, he sought a meaningful project to embrace. “I told him there is an organization that is looking for sponsors and asked him if he would be interested in doing something for the FIDF as his bar mitzvah project,” Mr. Stark recalls. With great enthusiasm, Adam agreed; indeed, included within his bar mitzvah invitation was an insert which read, “In lieu of a gift, please help sponsor Adam’s bar mitzvah project to bring 41 Israeli kids to the U.S. for a special summer program.” Arthur adds proudly, “Adam’s bar mitzvah project was so successful that it has become an annual event.”
Raised in a home permeated with love for Israel and dedication to the greater good, Adam Stark’s passion for Israel was ignited at an early age. Inspired by the intrepid soldiers of the IDF, Adam long aspired to join their ranks. “Even as a youngster he’d talk about serving in the IDF when he grew up,” his father says. “At 17 we saw that he was very serious about it. We supported him but wanted to make sure that he would be safe.” Her love for the land of Israel and its people notwithstanding, Adam’s mom was concerned for her son’s safety. But something transpired that would allay her reservations.
“We had sponsored a battalion, which proved to be the turning point for my wife. After that, she fully supported Adam’s decision to enlist in the IDF. The soldiers did a demonstration for us, during which we sat among them. My wife connected with them and recognized Adam’s need to enlist.”
We hope to feature Adam’s experiences as a member of the IDF and a lonesome soldier in a separate article. An exemplary young man, his bravery and perseverance is a source of inspiration and nachas.
“There is an aura of mystique about Israeli soldiers, a perception that they are invincible,” says Arthur Stark. “We often think of them as a military machine, but they are basically kids who have been trained with tremendous leadership and are risking their lives to protect Israel’s land and its people. The world doesn’t give these extraordinary men and women the credit they deserve; they are taking tremendous risks to reduce the risk of collateral damage.”
He adds, “There are many different worthwhile causes that we can support. But FIDF is something you can truly feel good about. They are risking their lives to protect Israel’s borders. We need to provide them with moral support and show them our love and gratitude by cheering them on and supporting FIDF’s wide array of outstanding programs.”
B’ezras Hashem, the strength of the IDF, which has been guarding the State of Israel since it declared independence in 1948, derives from the selfless determination and great capabilities of the young men and women who form it. The Israeli government is responsible for training IDF soldiers, providing them with the necessary tools for their service. FIDF is committed to providing these soldiers with love, support, and care in an effort to ease the burden they carry on behalf of the Jewish community worldwide.
Last year FIDF brought 77 bar/bat mitzvah children on a trip to the United States, presented Rosh Hashanah gifts to 4,900 widows, hosted about 700 widows at R&R centers in Israel, and funded workshops for nearly 1,000 bereaved siblings. As well, the FIDF provided approximately 10,000 soldiers with furniture and home appliances and gift vouchers for food and clothing. The FIDF granted 3,300 Impact! Scholarships for the 2011–12 academic year. Additionally, 12,000 combat and combat-support soldiers enjoyed SPIRIT week and 3,000 soldiers enjoyed an educational journey throughout Israel.
FIDF is proud to offer a variety of programs that enable their donors to contribute to a cause particularly close to their hearts that meets the needs of IDF soldiers.