Friends of the IDF befriends Lone Soldiers

Last week, the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces began a new tradition here in Philadelphia with their first annual Gala. Everyone enjoyed the music under the direction of Udi Bar as well as the drinks and fine food.  

However, the real reason everyone came out was to show their support for the soldiers of the IDF.  Their jobs is to look after Israel, and it is the job for the Friends of the IDF to look after them.

Keynote speaker former Governor Ed Rendell explained that he and his brother Robert were not raised in a religious home, but his father told them to remember that they are Jews, to remember how Jews have been treated over the years, and to support Jewish causes like FIDF whenever they could.

Although Rendell has had many titles: Governor of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Mayor of Philadelphia and Philadelphia District Attorney, he said the title of which he is most proud is that of 2nd Lieutenant from his service in the reserve from 1968 to 1974.

The Friends of the IDF supports Israeli soldiers in many ways:

  • The IMPACT! program grants full scholarships to soldiers who come from a disadvantaged socioeconomic background and seek a higher education. Each scholarship recipient is required to complete 130 hours of community service annually. IMPACT! Student Maru Gete, an Ethiopian Jewish immigrant, came to tell us how the FIDF allowed him to realize his dream of going to medical school.
  • The Legacy Program supports thousands of widows, orphans and other family members who have suffered the devastating loss of a loved-one fallen during military service. Galit Cochva was on hand to speak courageous of her husband Ron who  died when his helicopter crashed in Lebanon.
  • The Lone Soldier Program supports the 2,800 determined young men and women from all over the world who choose to leave the comfort of their homes and families to travel to Israel, become proud IDF soldiers and make Israel their home. Friends of the IDF is a family to Lone Soldiers who have no family of their own in Israel.


Wynnewood native Shoval Dorani returned to Philadlephia to tell us about her life as a lone soldier and the support she received from the Friends of the IDF.

Here is what she had to say:

Good evening. My name is Shoval Dorani and for the past year I have been serving as a proud lone soldier in Oketz, the independent canine special forces unit of the Israel defense force.

I was born in North Miami Beach, Florida and raised in beautiful Wynnewood, Pennsylvania along with my brother Omri and my sister Liat. I had the privilege of receiving a Jewish Day School education and was raised in a home where the state of Israel was constantly in our hearts and in our minds. My father was born in Israel and my mother has always considered Israel her second home, so we traveled to Israel often. Each time I stepped onto Israel soil, I felt a sense of belonging. I was home.

The remainder of Shoval’s remarks follow the jump.

The summer of 2006, the summer that Gilad Shalit was taken into captivity became a critical turning point in my life. I was a 14 year old attending an all girls summer camp when the Israel Lebanon war broke out. It was that moment that the course of my life would change forever. As the girls were playing in tennis tournaments or having fun on the soccer field, all I could think about was the war and how I wished to be alongside those brave soldiers of the IDF. It was then that I realized upon high school graduation, that I would enlist in the Israel defense forces. My friends could not understand my passion, but it was my dream, one that turned into a reality.

In the summer of 2010, my journey began, one that continues to challenge me both physically and mentally in ways I never thought possible. And while my friends were leaving for college full of dreams and excitement, I chose to leave my family and the comforts of home to travel to Israel and enlist in the Israeli army.

I am currently serving as a lochemet (combat soldier) in the Oketz unit which specializes in training dogs for military purposes. These dogs are highly trained to attack, sniff out hidden explosives or different chemicals as well as being used in search and rescue efforts resulting from earthquakes or other disasters.

I have a beautiful Belgian shepherd named Gula. She is highly trained to sniff out suspicious cars, objects and buildings for weapons and chemicals in order to prevent terrorism from entering the state of Israel.

It was two weeks after my enlistment into Karakal, a combat unit where men and women serve together to protect the southern border of Israel, that we had our gibush. Before joining the army, I knew that my dream was to be a soldier in Oketz. The only way for girls to join Oketz was to pass a ‘gibush,’ a physical and mental test lasting two days. It all began with a hapkatza, the sudden wake up call in the middle of the night. The next eight hours was the physical part of the gibush, where every run, crawl, and jump would determine the next three years of my army service. I gave it my all. During that gibush, I remember asking myself how I was able to continue, but I never gave up, determined to overcome this difficult challenge.

Two long days passed after the Oketz gibush, with every girl as anxious and nervous as I was to hear which girls had made it into this elite unit. After eating our breakfast of white bread, whole avocados, half a banana, and white cheese, all without plates or utensils, we were  told that the girls who did the gibush should stand in a “chet to hear who made it. Some girls began shaking and crying from nerves. As 100 girls stood  silently, one of the commanders stood in the middle of the chet. “I will read the list of 16 girls who made it into Oketz, I do not want to hear any reactions. Stay quiet.” As the names were called, my heart was pounding. I felt a bead of sweat on my forehead, although my entire body was numb from the winter air of the desert. Names were being called, mine not among them, when suddenly, “Dorani, Shoval.” Tears instantly ran down my cheeks. I could not believe what I had heard. MY name!? I made it?! Never before had I felt so accomplished and proud. My dream came true right then and there. My journey as an IDF soldier had just begun.

After six grueling and challenging months of basic training, my beloved Oketz team and I would end our service in Karakal, and begin a new adventure in Oketz. This had been our dream for the past six months, and it was finally here. Getting ready for the ‘masa aliya,’ was an entirely new feeling for us. We had many masaot before, but this masa would bring us to Oketz, our final destination. Our excitement was unavoidable. With all of our equipment on our backs, our weapons tight around our bodies, and our faces fully covered in paint, we were more than ready to begin this journey of 15 kilometers.

Basic training was full of many challenging masaot. One of them in order to receive my tag, another for a diskit cover, a pin for my coomta, and a case for my machsanit. All of these masaot were meaningful and extremely important to me, however the masa aliya to yechidat oketz meant more to me than anything. With much rabak, we all took our places in two lines. Our commander took the lead and we followed.

During the masa, sweating and sleep deprived, I along with the others were determined to succeed. This was my family now and when one was down, we all lent a hand. We had begun this journey together…we would end this journey together.

One cold night during basic training in Karakal, the hour had finally come where we could shower, speak on the phone, and go to sleep in our tents. I quickly ran to organize my things for the shower when I saw a package waiting for me on my bed. My first reaction was that it was probably a mistake and meant for one of the girls in my tent. As one of only two lone soldiers in my unit, it was sometimes difficult to see the Israeli girls getting packages almost every day. They received anything from food, clothes, bedding, and shampoo from their families and friends living in Israel. I was happy to see that the package read my name and inside I found winter socks, a hat, long underwear, a long sleeved shirt, pajama shorts, and a neck warmer. The package included an envelope full of letters from people from all over the world thanking me for leaving my life and my family and friends behind to serve as a lone soldier in the IDF. There was a letter from a woman that especially touched me.

Dear Shoval,

How are you? We hope that you’re not having too hard a time of it. After all, what would we do without you? Because of you, and only you, we are able to live and sleep in peace.

Our dear soldier, please take care of yourself so you can soon be home to your eema and abba. You are our strength. We are proud of you, look up to you, love you.

So take care of yourself and enjoy this package!

With love,

Nancy from Washington, D.C

No words could ever have been more beautiful, more important. I was not alone.

I want to thank each and every one of you in this room for coming tonight in support of the Friends of the Israel Defense Force. You have provided soldiers like me with certain comforts we would not otherwise be receiving. Packages, trips to water parks, and flights to travel and reunite with our families, are just to name a few. My journey has not been an easy one and there have been times of sadness and lonliness, but I made a decision to become a member of the IDF, a decision I will continue to love and be proud of.

Thank you.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates Awarded Liberty Medal


Liberty Medal award-winner Secretary Robert Gates and David Eisner, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center

Presenting the Liberty Medal to former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates were SFC Dana Graham of the Liberty USO, Anthony Odierno, representing the Wounded Warrior Project, and David Eisner, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center.

After a lifetme of public service, in the CIA, and ending with serving as Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Robert Gates was awarded the Liberty Medal on September 22 at the National Constitution Center.  The word “liberty” took on added meaning as David Eisner, the president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, had invited Iraq war veteran Anthony Odierno, representing the Wounded Warrior Project, and SFC Dana Graham of the Pennsyvalnia Army National Guard, representing the USO of Pennslvania and Southern New Jersey (Liberty USO), to present the actual Liberty Medal to Dr. Gates.

More after the jump.


Jim Gardner, of Channel 6 ABC, hosted the television broadcast of the Liberty Medal ceremony.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was one of the dignitaries who appeared by video to congratulate Secretary Gates and sing his praises.

With Governor Tom Corbett and Mrs. Lisa Nutter joining other diginitaries on stage, the program included video tributes from Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mayor Michael Nutter.  Gates is unique in having served under both Republican and Democratic administrations, which made his remarks of concern for the condition of public discourse in the country and in the nation’s capital today even more pertinent.

The VIP audience included a representation of the area’s Jewish community, some of which are pictured here.

(photos by Bonnie Squires)


Harold and Lynn Honickman

Joan Specter awaits Senator Arlen Specter, who was teaching a class before attending the Liberty Medal event.

Eugene and Roz Chaikin

A new twist on this year’s Liberty Medal ceremony was the introduction of the official timepiece by Hublot, presented to Secretary Gates at the gala which followed  the award ceremony.

Steve and Sandy Sheller

Philadelphia Theatre Company’s 35th Anniversary Dazzles Audience


(left to right) Ken Kaiserman, long-time Philadelphia Theatre Company (PTC) board member and past president, was congratulated on his being honored at the 35th anniversary gala by Mayor Michael Nutter and CBS3’s Pat Ciarrocchi, who served as auction host.

— by Bonnie Squires

The Philadelphia Theatre Company (PTC) dazzled hundreds of supporters with its 35th Anniversary celebration Gala, honoring long-time board member Kenneth S. Kaiserman of Kaiserman Company, Inc., and PTC Producing Artistic Director Sara Garonzik on Monday, June 6 at 6PM in the Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt at the Bellevue.  Governor Ed Rendell served as master of ceremonies, and his son Jesse beamed approvingly from the first table down front.

In addition to the honorees, Rendell praised Suzanne and Ralph Roberts, and Carl Dranoff, the developer of Symphony House, which houses the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, the permanent home of the Philadelphia Theatre Company.

The evening featured appearances by multiple Tony- and Emmy-award-winner Tyne Daly, star of  the upcoming revival of Terrence McNally’s Master Class on Broadway; Broadway and film star Kathleen Turner, who starred in PTC’s world premiere of Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins; Tony Award-winner and frequent PTC performer John Glover; Quentin Darrington, star of the recent revival of Ragtime; and the glorious voice of Alexandra Silber.  

More after the jump.


 (left to right) Jesse Rendell joined Paula Cohen, Richard Green, chairman of Firstrust Bank, and Tim Abell, president of Firstrust Bank, for the festivities at the Bellevue Stratford-Park Hyatt.

A highlight of the Gala was the announcement of the establishment of the Terrence McNally New Play Award presented by Philadelphia Theatre Company annually starting in 2012 in honor of great American playwright, Terrence McNally. McNally  took to the stage to explain that the award recipient will be a playwright who has written a full-length work that celebrates the transformative power of art. Philadelphia Theatre Company premiered Master Class and Golden Age, two of McNally’s works that capture the spirit of this award, which consists of a cash prize for the playwright as well as development support from PTC.


(left to right) Jeffrey Riesenbach, Rachel Hancock, CBS3’s Pat Ciarrocchi, and Cookie and Jerry Riesenbach, Esq., were delighted with the Philadelphia Theatre Company’s 35th anniversary gala, especially since Jerry is a past president of the PTC board and both Cookie and Jerry served on the gala committee.

Sara Garonzik, Producing Artistic Director, has directed and produced for Philadelphia Theatre Company since 1982, and introduced more than 140 world or regional premieres of major new American plays and musicals to Philadelphia. Sara is listed in “Who’s Who of American Women” and was named one of Business Philadelphia’s and Philadelphia Magazine’s “People to Watch.” She currently serves as a Board Member of the Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia, as President of the Board of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund and on the Advisory Board of PlayPenn, a new play development organization.


(left to right) Howard and Phyllis Fischer; Ron Kaiserman; and Bernie Brownstein, joined the hundreds of supporters at the PTC 35th anniversary gala.

Kenneth S. Kaiserman has served on Philadelphia Theatre Company’s Board of Directors for 34 years, and chaired PTC’s Capital Campaign to build the Suzanne Roberts Theatre. Ken is also a Board Member of Brandeis University, Friends of Rittenhouse Square, North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Ken is President of Kaiserman Company, Inc., a real estate development firm which owns and operates commercial and multi-residential property in the tri-state region.


Ralph and Suzanne Roberts were delighted with the support expressed for the Philadelphia Theatre Company and its permanent home at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre.

Co-chaired by Brigitte F. Daniel, Carol Saline and Paul Rathblott, the Gala combines an entertainment-filled evening and an opportunity to bid on tokens of affection including romantic get-aways, candlelight dinners for two at some of the area’s finest restaurants, one-of-a-kind experiences, jewelry, crafts, and VIP tickets to sports and cultural events.

Founded in 1974, Philadelphia Theatre Company is a leading regional theater company whose mission is to produce, develop and present entertaining and imaginative contemporary theater focused on the American experience that both ignites the intellect and touches the soul.  By developing new work through commissions, readings and workshops PTC generates projects that have a national impact and reach broad regional audiences.  Under the leadership of Sara Garonzik as PTC’s Producing Artistic Director since 1982, PTC supports the work of a growing body of diverse dramatists and takes pride in being a home to scores of nationally recognized artists who have participated in more than 130 world and Philadelphia premieres.  PTC has received 45 Barrymore Awards and 147 nominations.  In October 2007, PTC moved into a home of its own, the Suzanne Roberts Theatre on Center City Philadelphia’s Avenue of the Arts, solidifying the Company’s status as a major player on the American theater scene.  In October 2010, Kathleen Nolan joined PTC as its Interim Managing Director.

Photo Credit: Bonnie Squires

Israel 63rd Anniversary at National Museum of American Jewish History


— by Bonnie Squires

Philadelphia Israeli Consul General Daniel Kutner held a celebration of Israel’s 63rd anniversary at the National Museum of American Jewish History, and hundreds of area residents and VIPs turned out.


Mayor Michael A. Nutter (left) joined Consul General Daniel Kutner (right) for the celebration.

Sam Katz, Rabbi Aaron Landis, Councilman Jim Kenney, and Joseph Zuritsky (left to right) were among the people who came to the National Museum of American Jewish History to celebrate Israel’s 63rd anniversary.

More after the jump.

The Honorable Daniel Kutner (left) welcomes Dean Moshe Porat of Temple University’s Fox School of Business  (right) to the reception. Mayor Michael Nutter offered his well wishes to Israel on the occasion of its 63rd anniversary. (Left to right) Rabbi Eliseo Rosenwasser, of Har Zion Temple, and Liliana Elkouss were pleased to see former Congressman Patrick Murphy at the celebration.

President Obama Campaigns for Joe Sestak


President Barak Obama points to Joe Sestak and praises him for his decades of service to the country.

Convention Center Democratic fundraiser

President Barack Obama is getting his groove back, and Joe Sestak, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, was the beneficiary last night.  Hundreds of party faithfuls bought $250 tickets to see Obama and Sestak at a huge reception in the Convention center, while well-heeled supporters were escorted into the $1000 VIP reception.  Then there was a private dinner for the very highest-priced tickets.  While waiting for Obama to land in Philly, a string of luminaries spoke to the crowd, reiterating what has become a disciplined Democratic theme: get out the vote, hold onto the House and the Senate, support Obama’s initiatives, and make certain that Pennsylvania ends up with two Democratic Senators after this November’s election.  Making the point and leading the crowd in energetic chants of “Go, Joe!” were Pat Croce, the ultimate cheerleader; Governor Ed Rendell; Senator Bob Casey; Congressman Bob Brady; and Mayor Michael Nutter.

Among the Sestak supporters waiting for the senate candidate and President Obama to arrive Monday at the Convention Center are AFT-PA union officials, (left to right) Jerry Jordan, Ted Kirsch and Arlene Freedman.  

When President Obama and Admiral Sestak appeared on stage, they were greeted with overwhelming cheers and applause.  Obama used the occasion to praise and endores Sestak, and then he reiterated th themes which he has recently bugan talking about in an effort to bolster the Democratic Party base. He told an anecdote which other Democrats have used in the past month, saying, “When you want to go forward in a car, you put the gear into ‘D.’  When you want to go backwards, you push ‘R.’  It’s not a coincidence.”  The audience recognized instantly that “D” was for “Democratic” and “R” was for “Republican.”  

Obama reminded the audience that not a single Republican had voted for the stimulus bill or for the jobs bill, and that the Republican agenda has not changed in decades: they want to privatize Social Security, despite what has happened to the stock market in the past two years, and they want to remove all regulations on financial institutions,  despite the bank disaster which still has the economy struggling.

Obama gave shoppers at the Reading Terminal Market a thrill before crossing the street to the fundraiser, stopping to buy cheese steaks and, in deference to the First Lady’s push for healthy eating, some apples as well.

Photos and copy by Bonnie Squires.