Philadelphia To Celebrate Israel’s 68th Independence Day

More than 450 leaders from the Philadelphia community, including U.S. Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey Jr., will gather at Philadelphia’s historic Congregation Mikveh Israel on Thursday, May 12 to celebrate “Yom Ha’atzmaut,” Israel’s Independence Day.

The celebration’s program will include uniformed American and Israeli soldiers, who will be honored during a ceremony, which will be followed by a festive Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration featuring live Israeli music, and authentic Israeli-style food and wine.

Also attending will be current and former Lone Soldiers – young men and women who decide to leave their countries, homes, and families in order to go to Israel and serve in the IDF – who will be honored for their service. Speaking at the ceremony will be the mother of an active-duty Lone Soldier from Philadelphia; Senator Bob Casey Jr., D-Pa.; and Senator Pat Toomey, R-Pa.

Distinguished guests will include Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro; Israeli Navy Liaison to Philadelphia Lt. Cmdr. Eli Frenkin; First African Baptist Church Rev. Terrence D. Griffith; Friends of Israel of Argentina Vice President and FIDF Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey Executive Director Emeritus William Sutter; FIDF National Board Member Israel Roizman; and Dr. Zeff Lazinger, an active FIDF supporter.

Comedy Night Purim Celebration

So far this year, FIDF’s generous supporters have adopted the “Gadsar Golani” Battalion, funded a gym for the Yiftach Brigade of the IDF Northern Gaza Division, refurbished a club in Efraim Regional Brigade, and continue to support IMPACT! students with academic scholarships.

FIDF Gala to Feature Former Israeli Head of Intelligence

500px-AmosYadlin— by Ryan Greiss

More than 800 leaders from the Jewish community will gather on Monday, Oct. 26 for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey Chapter Annual Gala at the Crystal Tea Room to support the brave men and women of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

The evening, which has become one of the local Jewish community’s largest events, will feature a keynote speech by Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Yadlin, a 40-year IDF veteran and Israel’s former Chief of Defense Intelligence. Yadlin, who is now director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, will address the new wave of terror that is crashing down on Israel, where stabbing and shooting attacks are being reported hourly.

Also speaking will be wounded IDF veteran and Paralympic medalist Noam Gershony.  Six years before winning the gold medal for wheelchair tennis at the 2012 London Paralympics, Gershony’s Israeli Air Force Apache helicopter crashed in Lebanon, killing his co-pilot and severely wounding the future champion.

“After my injury I wondered, why did I survive? I used to be able to fly an Apache and now I can barely walk up four steps. That’s when I decided never to let myself become depressed — no matter what the situation,” said Gershony. “Now I know that I’m a very lucky guy: I fell 6,000 feet to what should have been my death, and I rose again.”

Co-chairing the gala and the dinner are Dr. Zeff Lazinger and Shelly and Jerry Abramson. Presiding as the evening’s master of ceremonies will be Rabbi Gregory Marx.

“It is especially important in these times that communities in the U.S. and around the world show support for Israel,” said FIDF donor Marcy Gringlas. “That support for Israel includes recognizing and honoring the brave women and men who protect Israel. It is our privilege to attend and to contribute to this event.”

Other distinguished guests will include active-duty IDF Lone Soldiers from the Philadelphia area 1st Lt. Eric and Cpl. Matthew, and FIDF Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey Executive Director Tzvia Wexler.

“Were it not for the Israel Defense Forces, we would not have the State of Israel,” said Wexler. “While they look after Israel, it is our job to look after them.”

The evening will begin with a 6 p.m. cocktail reception, followed by dinner at 6:45 p.m. and the program at 7:45 p.m. The funds raised at this event will go toward FIDF well-being and educational programs for IDF soldiers.

Who Are The Lone Soldiers?

On September 2, the Friends of the Israel Defence Forces will be hosting an event in honor of Lone Soldiers and their parents. Lone Soldiers are volunteers who go to Israel alone to serve in the IDF. They are considered “lone soldiers” because they are in Israel without their families. Sarah Schorr is the mother of one such soldier. She will be a featured speaker that evening.

IDF_Soldiers_Search_for_Terror_Tunnels_in_Gaza

Eric Schorr was born in the United States. He attended Akiba Hebrew Academy (currently the Jack M Barrack Hebrew Academy) and Columbia University. This “most pro-Israel” student needed to follow his heart. After receiving his college degree, he made aliya with Nefesh b’Nefesh and volunteered to serve in the IDF.

Like any mother watching from the sidelines, Sarah Schorr was especially comforted by the FIDF’s motto: “Their job is to look after Israel. Our job is to look after them.” She became involved with the FIDF in Philadelphia, vowing to do whatever she could to help from afar. You may meet her to find out how thanks to the FIDF, even though Eric’s family is here, he is never alone.

For more information about this event please refer to our calendar.

Knesset Speaker Lights Chanukah Candles with IDF Lone Soldiers

— by Rebecca Modell

Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein participated in a special Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony for the sixth night of Hanukkah, together with several Cabinet Ministers and Members of Knesset. The ceremony was also attended by 60 Lone Soldiers, arranged by Nefesh B’Nefesh, Friends of the IDF (FIDF), Tzofim Garin Tzabar, and Ha’aguda Lema’an Hachayal (The Association for the Welfare of Soldiers).

Photo Credit: Peter Halmagyi.

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Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said:

I’m happy and thrilled to be here to continue the tradition of lighting Chanukah candles in the Knesset. The lighting of the candles symbolizes the freedom of the people of Israel, and is especially relevant here in the Knesset because we have our own parliament, and despite all the disagreements that take place in it, we have the freedom to govern ourselves.

Five Lone Soldiers joined Edelstein as he lit the Chanukah candles. The soldiers, who are originally from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, France, Japan, and Uruguay made Aliyah to Israel to join the IDF with the support of Nefesh B’Nefesh and the FIDF.

Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nefesh B’Nefesh, said at the ceremony,

We are honored to have the Knesset Speaker light the Chanukah candles with these Lone Soldiers, in this symbolic salute to all those who left their families and homes in order to make Aliyah and serve the Jewish State through the Nefesh B’Nefesh/FIDF Lone Soldiers program.

Philadelphia FIDF Gala to Honor Holocaust Survivors


Left to right: Lt. Gen. (Res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, executive director of the FIDF Pennsylvania & Southern N.J. region, Tzvia Wexler, and Ambassador Ron Prosor in last year’s national FIDF gala, New York.

Local Holocaust survivors and their families will be honored at this year’s Annual Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF) Gala.

The gala will take place at 6 p.m. Monday, November 18, 2013 at Vie, 600 North Broad Street, Philadelphia. Tickets can be purchased at the gala’s website. Holocaust survivors who wish to take part may contact FIDF Pennsylvania and Southern N.J. executive director, Tzvia Wexler.

The theme of this year’s Gala is “From Holocaust to Independence,” and it will celebrate Israel’s 65 years of existence by saluting the survivors and remembering the struggles they overcame to build new lives, providing a future for the next generation.  

Former chief of the IDF general staff, Lt. General (Res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, will deliver an exclusive Keynote address.

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The FIDF was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors with the mission of providing and supporting educational, social, cultural, and recreational programs and facilities for the men and women of the IDF. Today, FIDF has more than 120,000 supporters, and 17 regional offices throughout the U.S. and Panama.

Prior to being appointed as the IDF’s chief of staff in 2007, Lt. General Ashkenazi has had an illustrious military career, that included:

  • Commander of Golani Brigade,
  • commander of liaison unit to Lebanon,
  • operations officer of Northern Command,
  • head of Israeli Northern Command, and
  • director general of Israeli Ministry of Defense.

In 2008, he was awarded the U.S. Legion of Merit by the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, on behalf of the President of the U.S. for enhancing U.S.-Israel relations.  

FIDF Delegation Arrives in Israel for Yom Ha’aztmaut‏

— by Jen Glantz

Over 100 prominent Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) lay leaders and supporters from the United States and Panama were accompanied by over 50 IDF officers as they flew to Israel via an Israeli Air Force plane this past Friday, to continue the memorable journey by commemorating Yom Ha’Zikaron and celebrating Yom Ha’Atzmaut in Israel today.

The group will also spend time on several elite IDF bases with soldiers, meet with top-level government and IDF officials and Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Speaker of the Knesset, and a special reception with the President of Israel, Shimon Peres, at his official residence.

Holocaust survivor Joseph Gringlas celebrating on the shoulders of an IDF soldier
Delegation participants celebrating Yom Ha’aztmaut in Israel. Photos by Shahar Azran, courtesy of FIDF

10-Year-Old-Me and 14-Year-Old Me Finally Joined the IDF


FIDF short film on joining the IDF

— by Becca Richman

After a little over a month, I finally laid down my broom and graduated from basic training. The way the army marks the end of this swirly month is with our swearing-in ceremony. My plugah (company) and I stood in a blob formation while the company commander read a few sentences for us to repeat. Then, one by one, we were called up to hold a tanakh (bible) and our gun, and swear to uphold our duties to the IDF.

The ceremony itself wasn’t anything special — the army has this funny way of throwing a bunch of random things together and expecting you to take it seriously just because it’s the army. This is the only explanation for the flashing light sticks scattered stunningly on the floor, the tree branches arranged in the shape of a Jewish star, or the old, cheesy music playing in the background. It all seemed very contrived to me, and as I stood at attention and watched my friends get called forward, I snickered to myself at the obvious symbolism that the commanders were forcing upon the occasion. And then my name was called.

Continued after the jump.
I took a deep breath and took a step up to my commander. He handed me my bible and my gun, and waited for me to say my part. All at once, eight years of dreams came flooding back to me. I saw myself at 10-years-old, standing at the Western Wall for the first time, feeling a holiness that I could not and still cannot explain, letting my most sincere words to God spill onto a ripped sheet of paper. I saw myself at 14, visiting my sister in Israel and finding that my longing to live here seemed to release me from my angst-filled and impatient adolescence.

I saw myself at 16, frustrated with the knowledge that two years of wanting may as well be an eternity, sitting at a computer until the wee hours of the morning and Googling programs to finally bring me home. I saw myself at 17, enjoying my summer program but angry that I had to be a tourist in the land where my heart was born. And I saw myself at 18, cleaning the same chairs for the fourth time, doing push-ups, tears streaming down my face because the language barrier seemed impossible to break.

A thought popped into my head and the sheer force of it was enough to literally make me take a step back: I realized that this moment was what I had been waiting for. All of that anticipation and longing and frustration that built up over eight years was just leading up to this very moment. It may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but the icy chill slithering slowly up and down my spine told me that it was all worth it, that this moment was mine to remind me of the pain and the beauty of fulfilled dreams. It was as if 10-year-old me, 14-year-old me, 16-and 17-year-old me, and even basic-training me were all suddenly overcome with an inexplicable happiness that tugged at my heart and had me on the verge of tears. I clutched the bible and my gun, smiled, and finally let the tears dance down my face as I said, “Ken ha’mefaked! Yes, commander, I swear!”

Becca Richman is a lone soldier volunteer with the IDF. She is the creator of It’s Always Sunny in Beit She’an: The Becca Richman Diaries.

Philly Delegation Participates in Holocaust Remembrance Journey


Photos by Shahar Azran, courtesy of FIDF

— by Jen Glantz

Over 100 prominent Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) lay leaders and supporters from the United States and Panama, including a delegation from Philadelphia, were accompanied by over 50 IDF officers as they toured the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in Poland as part of the ten-day FIDF “From Holocaust to Independence” journey to Poland and Israel.

The delegation visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, which was the largest of the Nazi’s Concentration Camps. The delegation also listened to the personal story of a Holocaust survivor from Israel, Asher Aud, in Auschwitz 2-Birkenau, where mass exterminations of Jews took place throughout the war.

More after the jump.
Earlier, The delegation toured the town of Tarnów-Zbylitowska Góra, which was home to thousands of Jews at the onset of World War II, who ultimately faced unspeakable suffering at the hands of the Nazis, and the village of Zbylitowska Góra as well as Buczyna Forest, where many Jews, including over 800 children, were executed and buried by the Nazis.

The delegation also visited the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Krakow, an important district in Jewish history and learned about its significant Jewish community that thrived from the 14th Century until the Holocaust. The delegation toured the Krakow Jewish Ghetto, where Jews were forced to live during the Nazi occupation, and saw the remnants of the Krakow Ghetto Wall. Upon arriving to Poland, the delegation enjoyed a celebratory dinner with the IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Gantz.


The delegation, including FIDF supporter Herbert London and his wife Vicki, near the synagogue

The official military ceremony at the Children’s Grave at Zbylitowska Góra

A group of FIDF delegation participants and IDF soldiers, with FIDF National President, Julian Josephson and FIDF National Director and CEO, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon, at the remnants of the Krakow Ghetto Wall

Left to right: FIDF National Director and CEO, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon, IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Gantz, and FIDF National President, Julian Josephson in Krakow, Poland

$27 Million Raised at FIDF National Gala Dinner

— 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.

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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.