Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Long Island Chapter’s Ninth Annual IDF Appreciation Evening last week raised $1.4 million to support wellbeing services for the men and women of the Israel Defense Forces. The FIDF fundraiser took place October 21 at the Fresh Meadow Country Club in Lake Success.
Over 600 prominent lay leaders and supporters from across Long Island gathered to pay tribute to the men and women of the IDF. Gal Carmeli, the sister of Sgt. Sean “Nissim” Carmeli, z’l, a lone soldier from Texas who moved to Israel, enlisted into the IDF, and was killed during the IDF’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza this summer, recalled her brother at the FIDF event.
“To us, nothing will ever justify this situation,” Gal Carmeli said of her brother’s passing. “No reason will ever be truly acceptable for separating Sean from us, but the love that we’ve received is not in any way expected. The pain that we constantly feel carries with it a beauty that I have never seen before. The goodness that has come forth from people we know and people we don’t, is what keeps us standing and keeps my parents from breaking.”
Sgt. Carmeli, 21, originally of South Padre Island, TX, was killed on July 20 in Shejaia, Gaza City, after his vehicle was struck by an anti-tank weapon. He was one of the 13 soldiers from the IDF’s Golani Brigade killed during the battle with Hamas. More than 40,000 people attended his funeral in Israel.
The FIDF event also honored Rabbi Howard Stecker, who serves Temple Israel of Great Neck, a leading Conservative congregation on Long Island. Rabbi Stecker remains devoted to lending his time to local Jewish organizations and was recently selected as a member of the fifth cohort of the Rabbinic Leadership Initiative at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.
“Those of us here tonight can fulfill a promise to the soldiers of the IDF,” said Rabbi Stecker. “We can fulfill the promise to support those who sacrifice and preserve Israel as a Jewish democratic state. We can fulfill the promise to ensure that their service is a bit less painful and lonely than it has to be. We can fulfill a promise to support their educational and professional training so that their lives will be more productive and meaningful during and far beyond their time of service.”
Guests included FIDF IMPACT! scholarship recipient Captain Eliran Naim, Sergeant Tal, a lone soldier from Palahan Givati, and Staff Sergeant Elle, a female combat paramedic.
Other prominent attendees included chairman of the gala, Edeed Ben-Josef; FIDF Long Island Chapter chair, Ronny Ben-Josef; FIDF honorary chairman, Lee Harounian; FIDF national executive director, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir; FIDF chief executive officer, Alan E. Scholnick; FIDF national director and CEO emeritus, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon; event honoree, Rabbi Howard Stecker of Temple Israel; Rabbi Seth Adelson of Temple Israel; Rabbi Amy Roth of Temple Israel; Rabbi Nir Shalom of Babylonian Jewish Center; Rabbi Dale Polakoff of Great Neck Synagogue; Rabbi Ian Lichter of Great Neck Synagogue; mayor of the Village of Great Neck Plaza, Mayor Jean Celender; mayor of the Village of Saddle Rock, Mayor Dan Levy; and FIDF director of Long Island, Liron Kreitman.
FIDF was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors as a 501c(3) not-for-profit organization with the mission of providing and supporting educational, social, cultural, recreational programs, and facilities for the heroic men and women of the IDF. Today, FIDF has more than 120,000 loyal supporters and 15 regional offices throughout the U.S. and Panama. 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. For more information, please visit: www.fidf.org.