Record Crowd at FIDF Gala at Waldorf Astoria - The Jewish Voice
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Record Crowd at FIDF Gala at Waldorf Astoria

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FIDF National Director and CEO, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon, FIDF National Chairman, Nily Falic, IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Gantz and FIDF Chairman Emeritus Arthur Stark (Photo Credit: Shahar Azran)
FIDF National Director and CEO, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon, FIDF National Chairman, Nily Falic, IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Gantz and FIDF Chairman Emeritus Arthur Stark (Photo Credit: Shahar Azran)
The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) National New York City Gala Dinner was held on Tuesday evening, March 11th at the famed Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where more than 1,400 prominent leaders from across the country gathered to stand in solidarity and support of the soldiers of Israel. The evening’s keynote speaker was Lt. General Benny Gantz, the IDF Chief of Staff.

The Friends of the IDF is a not-for-profit organization with the mission of providing and supporting educational, social, cultural, and recreational programs and facilities for the heroic men and women of the IDF.  Established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors as a 501(C)(3) not-for-profit organization, today the 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

“The FIDF National NY Gala Dinner pays tribute to the remarkable soldiers who take part in the IDF’s renowned military operations,” said FIDF National Director and CEO, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon. “Our objective is to give FIDF supporters an exclusive glimpse into the lives and daily activities of the brave men and women defending the Jewish homeland.”

During the cocktail hour, guests from around the world mingled with an extensive array of IDF personnel of various ranks; including captains, majors and generals, among others. As guests entered the grand dining hall to be served a lavish dinner costing a minimum of $1,000 a plate, an attendee could be heard telling a group of young IDF soldiers, “You protect us. Our job is to write the checks.”

In an exclusive interview with the Jewish Voice, Arthur Stark,  FIDF Chairman Emeritus and President of Beth Bath & Beyond said that “The IDF is the backbone of Israeli society and Israel is the  backbone of the Jewish world. So there’s nothing we can do that’s more valuable to support the soldiers who protect Israel and Jewish people all over the world.”

Barbara Winston of Harry Winston Jewelers is a philanthropist and daughter of Holocaust survivors. She explained why she was at the gala event Tuesday night, showing her support for the soldiers in attendance and those defending the Jewish homeland in Israel.: “The future of Israel rests with those marvelous young people. God bless the youth who are condemned actually to protect Israel and the rest of the world.”

Few in attendance know the struggles young IDF soldiers go through while serving abroad, and appreciate the need for an organization like FIDF, like Michael Miller, CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council, and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Both had children serving in the IDF at one point – Miller a son, and Boteach, a daughter.

“When my son was stationed in the Gaza Strip, he got support from friends of the IDF when he didn’t have his parents with him in Israel at the time,” Miller said proudly.

Boteach did not mince words when defending his support of the IDF and FIDF: “The IDF is the only reason the Jews in the Middle East have not been massacred. They are not just the front line of defense, they are the only defense. This is one of the most important Jewish events of the year!”

CUNY trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld echoed not only Boteach’s sentiments but those of the many in attendance who are frustrated with what they see as the world’s refusal to take threats to Israel’s security seriously. “The IDF is the insurance policy of the Jewish people and right now we can’t rely on our elected officials to compel the current administration in Washington to do what’s right, to take Iran seriously. We need to rely on our soldiers and the state of Israel to save Israel. That’s why everyone is here. The IDF is our last resort and our only resort,” he insisted.

President and CEO of Israel Bonds, Israel (Izzy) Tapoohi approached the subject of why he was lending his support to the FIDF’s cause from an economic perspective. “It’s important to show the world, including the BDS movement, that Israel is not alone, and we have no intention of letting Israel’s economy go down the drain.”

Other special guests at Tuesday night’s gala included senior IDF officials, such as Lt. Gen Benjamin Gantz, IDF’s Chief of the General Staff; Lt. Gen Gabi Ashkenazi, the IDF’s 19th Chief of the General Staff, more than 30 soldiers and officers from various IDF units as well as soldiers from the United States Armed Forces. Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations was a guest of honor as well.


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