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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

(l-r) IDF lone soldiers from Bergen County: Corporals Shevy Schwartz, Sophie Dubitsky, Shlomo Kroopnick and Yossi Giller, all 19, at the January 25 “Yom Siddurim” (personal errands day) hosted by FIDF, Nefesh B’Nefesh and the IDF Human Resources Department. (Photo credit: Shahar Azran).

Local parents of lone soldiers will be the beneficiaries of a visit by Nefesh B’Nefesh on Monday evening, March 12, in Bergenfield. They will hear from director of the NBN Lone Soldier Program, Noya Govrin, and Team English Manager Reuven Jacobs. During the course of the evening, in addition to mingling with other parents, they will learn about the IDF, rights and benefits, enlistment and programs, and will receive many helpful tips.

The Gillers are the proud parents of Yossi, 20, who is currently serving as a lone soldier in the tzanchanim, or paratroopers, unit of the IDF, through Machal. The second of their four children, Yossi attended The Frisch School and by the end of his junior year his parents knew he was drawn to military service, having been surrounded by grandfathers, uncles and cousins who served in the U.S. and Israeli armed forces. Yossi attended Yeshivat Mevaseret Tzion for his gap year, after which he signed up with the IDF. He was drafted in August of 2017.

The Gillers refer to their son as a “superstar.” They recently experienced the very special occasion of Yossi’s kumta ceremony in which he received the red beret worn by paratroopers in the IDF. The ceremony was held at the historic 1967 site of many crucial battles, Givat Hatachmoshet, and the Gillers were privileged to run alongside their son in the last stretch of his rigorous masa, trek, preceding the ceremony. They are very grateful to NBN for its constant support and assistance and are happy to open their home for the upcoming NBN event. They look forward to a large attendance of parents as well as future chayalim.

“Nefesh B’Nefesh is here for you every step of the way, from pre-aliyah planning to well after your arrival in Israel.” Most of us are familiar with the extensive list of services offered by NBN to those in our families and communities who have already made aliyah, as well as to those who are just contemplating the big move. From guidance and community resources, which help in navigating the health system, finding appropriate education for children and building a realistic budget; to employment services including assistance in career guidance, networking contacts and job placement; as well as financial assistance, government advocacy and aliyah flights, NBN is by your side.

Perhaps less known to the community are NBN’s services for lone soldiers from across the world who are serving in the IDF. According to the recently published 2017 statistics, over 3,000 lone soldiers are on active duty in the IDF, 66 percent men and 33 percent women. Over the course of 2017 alone, 300 events were planned by NBN for these soldiers scattered on bases throughout the country. In addition, close to 25,000 calls were facilitated between lone soldiers and their families and over 2,000 one-on-one
meetings were held through NBN, not to mention the over 68,000 emails exchanged.

During their military service, NBN provides lone soldiers with grants, assistance and guidance with army representatives, constant emotional support and points of contact with parents, social networking opportunities, workshops for IDF commanders and welfare staff as well as attendance at military ceremonies and yearly flights home. After their military service is completed, NBN continues its assistance through academic guidance, employment counseling and placement assistance, social events and specific individual support.

One of the most anticipated days of the year for lone soldiers is NBN’s Yom Siddurim. Held at a spacious venue such as Beit Ha’chayal in Tel Aviv, over 1,600 lone soldiers gather for a full day during which representatives from government agencies, ministries, consulates, municipalities and banks gather to assist the lone soldiers with their “siddurim” (their personal “to-do” lists), which are virtually impossible to accomplish while on active duty. One example of invaluable assistance offered is when the Ministry of Transportation expedites the issuance of between 200 and 400 driver’s licenses to lone soldiers in the course of the day.

NBN, now celebrating its 16th year, incorporated the Lone Soldier Program in 2008. Currently, the program includes soldiers from 41 countries, from Andorra to Zimbabwe. IDF units in which lone soldiers serve include paratroopers, artillery, tanks, infantry, intelligence and border patrol, as well as elite units and IDF spokesperson units.

Despite their comprehensive services, NBN knows that parents are still anxious about the welfare of their young “warriors” during their years of enlistment. In response to these concerns, NBN is now visiting communities throughout the U.S. and internationally to meet with parents of lone soldiers in an effort to allay their fears and assure them of the well-being of their children. NBN has scheduled five evenings in various communities in the U.S. when they will meet with parents of current lone soldiers as well as young men and women considering enlisting in the IDF. In addition to the Bergenfield visit, they will visit Laguna Hills, California; Tarzana, California; North York, Ontario; and Chicago, Illinois.

Assisting the Gillers in the organization of the evening is a former resident of Bergenfield, Dassah Kestenbaum. The Kestenbaums are the proud parents of seven children, two of whom have served and are currently serving in the IDF.

“Massye, our third child, served in the Golani unit through the hesder program of Yeshivat HaKotel. He completed his service two years ago, is now married and living in Givat Shmuel and studying history at Bar Ilan University. Our daughter Hanna enlisted during her first year of college in the U.S. She is serving in bargelas, a combat unit, through Machal. It is important for parents of lone soldiers to know about the resources available to them through NBN, during and even after their service. I am happy to be assisting with the local evening and do hope many parents attend. They will find it most reassuring,” said Kestenbaum.

NBN will be hosting its annual mega aliyah event at John Jay College on Sunday, March 11, beginning at 10 a.m., with sessions for all ages and stages of potential olim. Many sessions will be held to inform attendees about everything they need to know about aliyah.

The parents’ night for current lone soldier parents will be held on March 12 at 8 p.m. at the Giller home, 50 Highgate Terrace, Bergenfield. Please RSVP to Dassah Kestenbaum at [email protected] For more information, contact Team English Manager Reuven at [email protected].