FIDF NY Gala Raises Record $35M+ For Israeli Soldiers
US and Israeli soldiers at the FIDF NY Gala Dinner.
By Staff Writer
December 15, 2017 Hanukkah issue
More than 1,200 leading business people and philanthropists from across the country gathered on October 23rd at the New York Hilton Midtown for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) National N.Y. Gala Dinner, which raised a record of more than $35 million to support well-being and educational programs for Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers.
The “Night of Heroes” saluted the brave soldiers and veterans from all of Israel’s military operations and historic wars. Speaking at the gala was outgoing Israeli Air Force (IAF) chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, who commanded the forces protecting Israel’s skies for five years and oversaw the recent acquisition of the new F-35 fighter jets – the most advanced warplane in the region – from the United States.
“I've flown 10 sorties in the F-35, and it is a game changer for the Israeli Air Force – not just because of its capabilities, but because it will elevate and strengthen the entire IDF,” said Eshel at the gala. He added that not only must Israel be able to destroy all incoming threats but must act like surgeons to avoid full scale war while obtaining its objectives and must avoid strategic disasters, showing just how high the bar is set for Israel's military. One of his most moving memories is, as a son of a Holocaust survivor, being one of the pilots of an Israeli plane that were tasked with flying over Aushwitz during a special ceremony in 1977.
Among the honored guests were Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Amb. Danny Danon; Consul General of Israel in New York Dani Dayan; and business magnates, philanthropists and steadfast supporters of Israel, Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson.
Distinguished guests included Fox Business Network anchor Liz Claman, who presided as master of ceremonies; FIDF National Chairman Arthur Stark; FIDF National President Rabbi Peter Weintraub; FIDF National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir; and FIDF Tri-State Executive Director Galit Brichta.
The evening held a special commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War led by legendary IAF test pilot Danny Shapira, who was one of the very first to fly over Israel and served in six wars. The 92 year old Shapira started flying German Messerschmitts in 1949, knew that the 1948 War had to be won with100 million Arabs against the Hagannah woefully under armed, and remarked that by 1967 the Israeli Air Firce pilots knew they could win that war. What an inspiration it was to have him recognized for his heroic deeds.
Also speaking was Amir Ofer, a hero of Operation Entebbe, the famous Israeli rescue mission at Uganda’s Entebbe Airport in 1976 that saved 102 hijacked Air France passengers who were held hostage by terrorists. Ofer, who was then a soldier in the IDF’s most elite special operations unit, was the first Israeli commando to enter the Entebbe Airport terminal, where he used a megaphone to tell the hostages, “Stay down! Stay down! We are Israeli soldiers!” Ofer said that the celebration in Israel upon their return was similar to the day Israel declared its independence. He said that the message sent to the world was that "now we have the Jewish State and the Jewish army with one clear agenda - to protect Jews around the world."
Special guests included 25 IDF soldiers and officers from several military units and the IDF Orchestra, including one of the IAF’s few women combat flight navigators, Capt. “N.”; Maj. “G.,” who pilots one of the IAF’s new F-35 fighter jets; Sgt. Shira, a paramedic who has been treating wounded Syrian refugees; and Israeli Navy Sgt. Matan, a “Lone Soldier” – or one who immigrates to Israel with no immediate family in order to enlist in the IDF – originally from Westchester, N.Y.
“Since its founding, Israel has fought for its right to exist as a free nation and guarantee the security and prosperity of its people. This freedom and safety relies first and foremost on the existence of a strong and moral army,” said Maj. Gen. (Res.) Klifi-Amir. “At this ‘Night of Heroes,’ we salute the men and women soldiers who have taken part in the ongoing struggle of the State of Israel. Each and every one of them is another link in the chain of the IDF heroism and the Jewish State, as they continue to serve today – ‘L’dor Va’dor’ (from generation to generation) – and we all owe them our deepest gratitude. While their job is to look after Israel, our job is to look after them.”
FIDF’s flagship national event was chaired by FIDF National President Rabbi Peter Weintraub. A Reform rabbi and businessman, Weintraub has been an avid FIDF supporter for over 16 years and has sponsored academic scholarships for more than 85 IDF combat veterans through FIDF’s IMPACT! Scholarship Program.
“The heroic men and women of the IDF put their lives on the line every day to defend the Jewish state and protect Jews everywhere,” said Weintraub. “Tonight’s gala honors their sacrifices, celebrates their victories, and affords us the opportunity to personally thank them for all that they do in service to Israel and the Jewish people.”
Notable among the donations was a $7 million gift pledged by Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson, who continued their generous support for FIDF. Or Lachayal pledged $2 million and FIDF Young Leadership New York pledged $1.5 million. A number of anonymous donors pledged more than $1 million each. Genesis Philanthropy Group, MASA Israel Journey, Nefesh B’Nefesh, and FIDF National Vice President Marc Perlman each pledged $1 million, and the Iranian American Jewish Federation pledged $600,000.
Funds raised at the gala will provide much-needed and well-deserved services such as academic scholarships to combat veterans, financial assistance for soldiers in-need, support for Lone Soldiers throughout their service and upon release, crucial aid for wounded veterans and the families of fallen soldiers, weeks of rest and recuperation for entire IDF units, as well as educational, cultural, and recreational facilities. The evening presented a rare and exclusive opportunity to pay tribute to the State of Israel and its brave men and women in uniform.
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ABOUT FRIENDS OF THE ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES (FIDF):
FIDF was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors as a 501(C)(3) not-for-profit organization with the mission of offering educational, cultural, recreational, and social programs and facilities that provide hope, purpose, and life-changing support for the soldiers who protect Israel and Jews worldwide. Today, FIDF has more than 150,000 loyal supporters, and 20 chapters throughout the United States and Panama. FIDF proudly supports IDF soldiers, families of fallen soldiers, and wounded veterans through a variety of innovative programs that reinforce the vital bond between the communities in the United States, the soldiers of the IDF, and the State of Israel. For more information, please visit: www.fidf.org.