Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, (FIDF) Orange County held a Gala November 11th at the Hotel Irvine. Founded in 1981 in the United States by a group of Holocaust survivors, the FIDF supports educational, cultural, recreational and social service programs and facilities for the Israel Defense Forces, (IDF). The FIDF provides hope, purpose, and life changing support for the soldiers who protect Israel and Jews worldwide.
Adam Reingold, Orange County Director of Development for the FIDF Orange County and staff produced an outstanding program with about 760 in attendance. His passion for FIDF was impressive as he spoke of the FIDF role in Israel and the support Orange County gives in furthering the IDF mission.
Jeffrey and Elana Samson Co-Chaired the Gala and believe the IDF are mentors for the world. Jeffrey was so impressed with the IDF after going on a mission, which included 17 men to Israel. This inspired him to become involved with the IMPACT! Program, sponsoring young adults in the IDF and providing them with an education. In return, the men and women of the IDF provide 126 hours of volunteer services each year while serving Israel.
Elana believes they are involved, “Because Israel is so important to our family, as is making sure Israel is safe and protected. Our children have studied in Israel, both undergraduate and post graduate work.”
Marci and Shawn Miller, also Co-Chairs of the Gala, shared their vision for the future of the FIDF in a moving speech, believing that it is each of our responsibilities to support soldiers who support Israel and Jews worldwide.
Last year Shawn traveled on the Men’s Mission, assisting in raising funding for the “Mini-Pitch” in Israel.
The evening showcased through speakers and a film presentation how vital the FIDF is in supporting the IDF so they can do their job in supporting Israel. Recently more home environments have been created in Israel for Lone Soldiers, with more gymnasiums constructed in addition to a new soccer field with a basketball court and a workout facility called a “Mini Pitch.” A film illustrated young soldiers in the IDF from all over the world thanking the FIDF in several different languages.
Rodney Sacks was proud to donate gymnasiums to Israel for the IDF, continuing philanthropic efforts through the FIDF.
Tibi and Lee Ram who attended the Gala provided an inspirational speech along with a film. Tibi enlisted in the IDF many times over the years, serving in every war in Israel following the Holocaust. A Holocaust survivor, he relocated to Israel and became a farmer. His father taught him that wherever your homeland is, you must fight to protect it. Continuing Tibi’s military legacy is his son and grandson Lee, whom he gifted with his red beret.
Marc and Mandy Maister shared their journey with the FIDF: “It’s our second year, with 550 in attendance last year and 760 this year. Seventeen men went on a mission to Israel and it was absolutely eye opening! This was literally such an uplifting force that we ended up with 3 IMPACT! students.”
Holocaust survivors were honored as well and some shared compelling stories.
Marta Lightner went from being a holocaust survivor to an IDF soldier. Marta survived the atrocities of the Holocaust, yet tragically most of her relatives were murdered in Aushwitz. Returning home to Czechoslovakia, (today, Slovakia), she received permission to make Aliyah to Israel at the age of 15. At 18, eager to help build Israel, Marta proudly joined the IDF. Her son shared a photo of her with Rob Reiner as well as a photo of her as a young woman in the army.
Marta reflected on her experience in the IDF as she became a border guard and a sheepherder. She helped settle new kibbutzim in border areas. She learned martial arts, and how to shoot a gun, entering rigorous physical training.
Maria and Ronald Dworkin said, “It is so great to be here, there are no words to express our journey over the years from Leningrad to here.”
Additional holocaust survivors, happy to attend the Gala and holding gifts of a rose included: Norman and Marion Rosenblum, Lana Bronstin, and Fanya Roahlen.
Major General (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir, the National Director and CEO of the FIDF was so impressed with all the IDF is doing in Israel, he also participated in the IMPACT! Scholarship program. His distinguished career includes 33 years of military service in the IDF.
Norman Smith is the Advice Chairman for FIDF San Diego and Orange County. He believes, “The Israeli Army is unique in that there is a myriad of social services, including education, health care, and gymnasiums. Israel absorbs immigrant youth who are rehabilitated and assisted with training to integrate them into the Israeli culture.”
There are many ways to support the FIDF, including the Legacy Program, Strides Program, Wounded Soldiers Program, Adopt a Brigade Program, Adopt a Battalion Program, and the Spirit Program to name a few.
Mission programs to Israel, include Young Leadership, (YL) Division, Ride Israel Cycling Tour, Exclusive National Leadership Mission, Women’s Mission and Mission to Poland and Israel.
Keynote speaker for the evening was Naom Geshony who gave a heartfelt and inspirational speech at the closing of the Gala.
Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu sent a letter commending the FIDF for joining in embracing the soldiers for the IDF. “Thank you for standing by those who stand up for us.”
“Their Job is to look after Israel. Ours is to look after them.”
For more information regarding the FIDF Orange County, visit the website: www.fidf.org.