— by Jen Glantz
$27 million was raised Tuesday night at the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) National NY Gala Dinner where over 1,400 prominent business and philanthropic leaders from across the country gathered at the historic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel to demonstrate their love and support for the soldiers of Israel. FIDF Chairman Emeritus Arthur Stark was the chair of the Gala, and author and nationally syndicated radio host Dr. Monica Crowley served as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies.
A special delegation from the FIDF Pennsylvania & Southern New Jersey Region participated in the Gala event. Among the delegation members was the Executive Director of the FIDF Pennsylvania & Southern New Jersey Region, Tzvia Wexler.
More after the jump.
Among the distinguished guests in attendance were FIDF National Chairman, Nily Falic; FIDF National President, Julian Josephson; FIDF National Director and CEO, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon; Former IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. (Res.) Gabi Ashkenazi; Founder and President of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein; Israeli-American luxury fashion designer, Elie Tahari; President of the New York Yankees, Randy Levine and his wife, Mindy; American real estate tycoon and media proprietor, Mort Zuckerman; and American sex therapist, media personality, and author, Dr. Ruth Westheimer.
Left to right: Former IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. (Res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, Executive Director of the FIDF Pennsylvania & Southern New Jersey Region, Tzvia Wexler, Ambassador Ron Prosor
One of the evening’s outstanding guests was Cpt. Ziv Shilon, a 25-year-old commander of the Givati Brigade, who just a couple of months ago was badly injured in a Hamas attack near the Gaza security fence, when an explosive device went off. Cpt. Shilon was also joined at the Gala by more than 30 soldiers and officers from various IDF units as well as soldiers from the United States Armed Forces, including Maj. Justin Constantine, a wounded U.S. Marine Corps veteran.
Notable among the donations were $5 million pledged by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein; $1 million pledged by the Genesis Philanthropy Group; $130,000 pledged by Elie Tahari; $100,000 pledged by Mort Zuckerman; $1.08 million pledged by FIDF National Board Member, Harry Gross; and $1.3 million pledged by National Board Member and Young Leadership Chairman Tony Felzen on behalf of FIDF NY Young Leadership. The Major League Baseball and the Yankee Foundation purchased dinner sponsorships.
The evening culminated with the heartfelt words shared by bereaved mother, Nelly Barak, who tragically lost her son, Hanan Barak Z”L, who was a tank commander, in 2006. Hanan and another soldier were killed when a group of terrorists fired an RPG at his tank and then abducted his soldier, Gilad Shalit, that was released last October after five years of captivity by Hamas in Gaza.
The funds raised during the evening will provide services like academic scholarships to former combat soldiers, financial support for soldiers in-need and Lone Soldiers from around the world, weeks of rest and recreation for entire IDF units, as well as educational, cultural, and recreational facilities. The evening was an opportunity to pay tribute to the State of Israel and to send a message of love and support to the brave men and women in uniform.