The 14th Annual New Jersey Friends of the IDF (FIDF) dinner was held on October 7 at the Teaneck Marriott at Glenpointe, marking the momentous 70th anniversary celebration for Israel and the IDF. Founded in 1981 by Holocaust survivors, national chapters of FIDF throughout the U.S. and Panama raise tens of millions of dollars annually from generous donors to assist Israel’s “young warriors” during and after their
active service in the IDF. Through programs offering financial support to the soldiers and their families, post-army scholarships and training programs, educational seminars, medical and rehabilitative assistance for the wounded, support for the families of the fallen and a myriad of other services, they provide “ongoing hope, purpose and life-changing support to the soldiers who protect Israel and Jews worldwide.”
The New Jersey chapter of FIDF, directed by Howard Gases, is referred to as the “Lone Soldier Chapter.” Thus, each year at the annual dinner, current and former lone soldiers of the IDF are invited to share their stories with the attendees during the lavish buffet dinner. Posters and videos showing the young faces of our soldiers in action added greatly to the ambiance of the evening. Young soldiers in uniforms of differing colors mingled with one another and the other attendees.
One particular lone soldier who attended the event was Tamar David who previously attended SAR High School just prior to making aliyah after graduation at the age of 18. After her basic training was completed, David was trained as a madricha and a a shooting instructor for infantry soldiers. She also taught field intelligence, and the use of scopes and navigation. As a lone soldier, she lives in an apartment with other American female lone soldiers. She is grateful for the assistance provided to her by FIDF which defrays her rent and provides gym facilities, fun days, special social events and the invaluable IMPACT scholarship which assists IDF veterans in pursuing higher education.
Edison native Dovid Goldstein, 20, is a graduate of RPRY in Edison and Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston. His commitment to Israel was realized early on when, at age 17, he volunteered on an IDF army base cleaning tanks for the summer. At Kushner, he served as president of the AIPAC club and was honored with an award at the 2016 AIPAC Policy Conference. After graduation in June of 2016, he joined Garin Tzabar, a religious unit in the IDF. He serves in a special forces unit in Nahal called Orev, in which he deals with homing missiles. He resides in Jerusalem and spends a great deal of time in the Michael Levin Lone Soldier Center with his American lone soldier buddies. He is truly grateful to FIDF for the yemei sidurim, organizing days, and yemei kef, fun days, arranged by the FIDF for lone soldiers.
Surrounded by her proud parents and grandmother, Rachel Gordon of West Orange, former lone soldier who completed her army service in June, spoke with The Jewish Link. A graduate of Solomon Schechter and West Orange High School, Rachel took a semester off from her studies at the University of Pittsburgh to study at Hebrew University. At the end of that semester, she decided to remain in Israel, made aliyah and was drafted into the IDF in March of 2016. After basic training, she was appointed to the position of welfare manager in the unit of aerial defense. In this position, utilizing her studies in social work, she counseled soldiers and made home visits to the families of soldiers from a base south of Beersheva. She completed her service in June of 2018, but not before she was nominated for and received the prestigious President’s Award of Excellence which was conferred on 120 IDF soldiers on Yom Ha’atzmaut. Gordon was only one of 10 soldiers from the Israeli Air Force to be bestowed with the prestigious honor, which was broadcast on Israeli TV. During her service, Gordon Skyped with fourth graders at Yavneh Academy in Paramus and special needs classes at the MetroWest JCC in West Orange. Gordon also expressed her gratitude to FIDF for their ongoing care and concern for lone soldiers throughout their service.
Honored lone soldiers included Sgt. Mikey, who lived in New Jersey prior to his move to Long Island. Currently, he serves as a lone soldier in the Pioneer Combatant Youth Reconnaissance Company and takes part in the IDF’s Operation Good Neighbor, which provides humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. Second Lieutenant Sarah Kampner, originally of Philadelphia, was badly wounded in 2016 when a truck rammed into a busload of young soldiers on the Armon Ha’natziv Promenade in Jerusalem. Thankfully fully recovered, she heads a branch in the research division of the intelligence corps. Kampner was surprised with a warm video message from her “Zaidy” in Israel expressing his pride in her courage and defense of Eretz Yisrael.
An unforgettable moment came at the conclusion of the dinner when longtime FIDF National Board Member Donna Calcaterra of New Jersey, pledged the huge sum of 3.7 million dollars toward the establishment of a new FIDF Recreation Center to be named in memory of Ari Fuld HY”D.
To learn more about the projects of FIDF visit www.fidf.org or call 1-888-318-3433.
By Pearl Markovitz