FIDF Gala at Hil­ton Raises $35M – Cel­e­brates “A Night of Heroes” Hon­or­ing Brave Sol­diers & Vets

The Jewish Voice - - FRONT PAGE - By: Lieba Ne­sis

The Friends of the Is­rael De­fense Forces (IDF) held its an­nual din­ner on Mon­day, Oc­to­ber 23, 2017 at the Hil­ton ho­tel with the re­cep­tion be­gin­ning at 5:30 PM. Last year's March din­ner was can­celled due to an im­pend­ing snow­storm and resched­uled this evening with a sold-out 1,200 per­son crowd. Nor­mally, this el­e­gant din­ner is held at the preferred venue of the Wal­dorf As­to­ria which is un­for­tu­nately un­der con­struc­tion. This gala is one of the ma­jor an­nual fundrais­ing events of the IDF.

The IDF was cre­ated in 1981, ful­fill ing David Ben-Gu­rion's vi­sion of an Amer­i­can pil­lar of sup­port for Is­rael's sol­diers with more than 15 branches in the United States and Panama. In 2016, the or­ga­ni­za­tion gave: 4,025 im­pact schol­ar­ships to combat vet­er­ans; ed­u­ca­tional sup­port to 5,000 sol­diers post-ser­vice; ne­ces­si­ties such as fur­ni­ture and food vouch­ers to more than 8,000 sol­diers in-need; sup­ported 710 wounded vet­er­ans; and adopted 8 bri­gades sup­port­ing 30,000 sol­diers.

This evening was "A Night of Heroes" and saluted the brave sol­diers and vet­er­ans from all of Is­rael's mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions and his­toric wars. Th night be­gan with a mov­ing ren­di­tion of the Star Span­gled Ban­ner and Hatik­vah by Can­tor Naf­tali Her­shtik. This year, there was a more op­ti­mistic tone to the din­ner as Pres­i­dent Trump con­tin­ues to prove he is a great friend of Is­rael with a video shown de­pict­ing the un­prece­dented mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the United States and Is­rael.

Peter Wein­traub, the FIDF Na­tional Pres­i­dent, thanked Miriam and Shel­don Adel­son for pledg­ing $10 mil­lion last year but ac­tu­ally do­nat­ing $16 mil­lion-the largest gift in IDF his­tory. Th y were given a special plaque for adopt­ing nu­mer­ous army bri­gades with the in­scrip­tion "it is not what one says but what one does" that counts and they are in­cred­i­ble Jewish ac­tivists. Shel­don and Miriam were seated in the mid­dle of a large cen­tral ta­ble in the ball­room and were the toast of the evening with hun­dreds of peo­ple re­quest­ing self­ies and con­grat­u­lat­ing them on their gen­eros­ity. This dy­namic duo's sup­port of Birthright has given hun­dreds of thou­sands of Jewish stu­dents the op­por­tu­nity to sam­ple the beauty of Is­rael.

Tonight was all about Is­rael, with more than 25 IDF sol­diers and offic s from sev­eral mil­i­tary units and the IDF orches­tra at­tend­ing. The em­cee of the evening was Fox busi­ness news an­chor Liz Cla­man and her en­thu­si­asm and pro­fes­sion­al­ism was read­ily ap­par­ent. A special com­mem­o­ra­tion of the 50th An­niver­sary of the Six-Day War was led by leg­endary Air Force Pi­lot Danny Shapira. The 92-year-old Shapira re­counted his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Six-Day-War where he and his com­pa­tri­ots, without suf­fici t arms, were sur­rounded by 100 mil­l­lion Arabs know­ing they would be killed if they sur­ren­dered. He later told me he had fl wn in six wars and dur­ing the six-day war, he fl w on two bomb­ing mis­sions a day per­form­ing all the test fly­ing of the air­crafts. On the sixth day of the war the Is­raeli army gave him a re­prieve to at­tend his son's Bar Mitz­vah. Shapira spoke proudly of Is­rael's pre­em­i­nence in high tech­nol­ogy and

lauded the strength of the cur­rent Is­raeli Air Force. Shapira has two sons and a daugh­ter who were all in the Air Force-an un­prece­dented achieve­ment.

An­other su­per­star, Capt. "N", one of the few women combat fli ht nav­i­ga­tors who pi­lots the new F-35 fi hter jets, said there are cur­rently 2,100 women in active combat and she was one of 4 women amongst 75 men in her Air Force unit and was treated as an equal by her Com­man­der. A video was shown of the re­mark­able Is­raeli F-35 Adir- a stealth fi hter plane that was pro­vided by Lock­heed Martin with Is­rael out­fit­ting the air­craft for its own essen­tial needs. Maj. "G", who pi­lots one of these planes, spoke about its awe­some ca­pa­bil­i­ties and the special hel­met cre­ated by Is­rael al­low­ing pi­lots clear vi­sion to ma­neu­ver ef­fort­lessly in the dark.

Amir Eshel, Com­man­der of the Is­raeli Air Force for the past five years, over­saw the ac­qui­si­tion of these jets and said the F-35 was a "game changer" for the IDF. Eshel who re­cently re­tired said he was hon­ored to be in the same room as liv­ing leg­end Danny Shapira a pi­lot he has ad­mired since the age of 8. Eshel spoke of his lengthy ser­vice say­ing his ul­ti­mate goal as com­man­der was to evis­cer­ate evolv­ing threats while avoid­ing es­ca­la­tion to full scale war. He then praised the pro­fes­sion­al­ism of the cur­rent group of sol­diers by re­mark­ing that "tech­nol­ogy was worth­less without good peo­ple." Eshel led a three plane Air Force fli ht over Auschwitz a sym­bolic mis­sion ex­em­pli­fy­ing that "never again" is more than just an empty sound bite. Eshel promised to sup­port the state of Is­rael and the whole Jewish peo­ple.

Just when I was all "heroed out" we were in­tro­duced to Amir Ofer; the fi st IDF soldier to en­ter the En­tebbe ter­mi­nal to free the 102 hi­jacked Air France pas­sen­gers in a dar­ing 90 minute oper­a­tion in Uganda. Ofer re­called us­ing a mega­phone to tell the hostages, "Stay down! Stay down! We are Is­raeli sol­diers" and be­came emo­tional when de­scrib­ing the 1976 mis­sion termed "Oper­a­tion Thun­der­bolt." Un­for­tu­nately, this mis­sion ended with the un­time-

ly death of the great Yonatan Ne­tanyahu. Ofer humbly in­sisted he was not a hero but was sim­ply do­ing what he had trained for. Ofer re­counted par­tic­i­pat­ing in many covert mis­sions that were sig­nific ntly more dan­ger­ous than En­tebbe re­fer­ring to En­tebbe as "the tip of the public ice­berg" in terms of au­dac­ity. Ofer said En­tebbe sent a mes­sage to the world that the Is­raeli state will pro­tect Jews all around the globe.

The e mov­ing ac­counts were a per­fect segue into the fundrais­ing por­tion of the evening with Peter Wein­traub plead­ing with the au­di­ence to be "short on ora­tions but big on do­na­tions." The e were so many gen­er­ous donors with the Ge­n­e­sis phi­lan­thropy group, Masa Yis­raeli, Ne­fesh B' Ne­fesh, and FIDF Na­tional Vice Pres­i­dent Marc Perl­man each pledg­ing $1 mil­lion. More­over, there were a num­ber of anony­mous donors who gave over $1 mil­lion each; with Adiv Baruch pledg­ing $2 mil­lion. Larry Hochberg, Co-Founder and Chair­man of FELNET is an in­ter­na­tional phi­lan­thropist who has been in­volved in nu­mer­ous ini­tia­tives sup­port­ing Is­rael through­out Europe and the United States. Hochberg do­nated $100,000 this evening with lit­tle fan­fare.

No din­ner would be com­plete without the largesse of Shel­don and Miriam Adel­son. Mon­day evening was Miriam's birth­day and she wore a beau­ti­ful dress de­signed by an un­known Is­raeli-typ­i­cal of the un­der­stated Miriam. Miriam ex­pressed con­cern over UNESCO's anti-Is­rael bias and seemed pleased that she had helped elect a Pres­i­dent that will with­draw from the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Tonight she and Shel­don joy­fully do­nated $7 mil­lion and re­quested to adopt ad­di­tional army bri­gades. Wein­traub an­nounced that a record-break­ing $35 mil­lion had been raised; I am con­fide t the Adel­sons will throw in a cou­ple of mil­lion more akin to their in­creased con­tri­bu­tion last year.

(Photo credit: Sha­har Azran)

U.S. and Is­raeli sol­diers at the Oct. 23rd Friends of the Is­rael De­fense Forces (FIDF) New York Gala Din­ner.

(From left, cen­ter) FIDF Na­tional Di­rec­tor and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir; Dr. Miriam and Shel­don G. Adel­son; Per­ma­nent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Is­rael to the United Na­tions Amb. Danny Danon; FIDF Na­tional Pres­i­dent Rabbi Peter Wein­traub; FIDF Na­tional Chair­man Arthur Stark; Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel; and Brig. Gen. (Res.) Gila Klifi-Amir with Is­raeli sol­diers. (Photo credit: Sha­har Azran)

(From left) FIDF Na­tional Di­rec­tor and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.)

Meir Klifi-Amir; Dr. Miriam and Shel­don G. Adel­son; Per­ma­nent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Is­rael to the United Na­tions Amb. Danny Danon; Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel; FIDF Na­tional Pres­i­dent Rabbi Peter Wein­traub; FIDF Na­tional Chair­man Arthur Stark. (Photo credit: Sha­har Azran)

(From left) FIDF Na­tional Di­rec­tor and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Kli­fiAmir; Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel; Ellen Sokoloff and her hus­band Lloyd, who is an FIDF na­tional board mem­ber; FIDF Na­tional Board Mem­ber and New Jer­sey Chap­ter Co-Founder Sammy Bar-Or; An­nette Tauber Stern, who will co-chair the up­com­ing FIDF New Jer­sey gala; FIDF New Jer­sey Di­rec­tor Howard Gases; FIDF Na­tional Pres­i­dent Rabbi Peter Wein­traub; and Sylvia and Arthur Stark. (Photo credit: Sha­har Azran)

(From left) FIDF sup­porter Rafi Nakash; Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel;

FIDF Na­tional Board Mem­ber and Long Is­land Chair­man Ronny Ben-Josef; FIDF Na­tional Chair­man Arthur Stark; FIDF Na­tional Pres­i­dent Rabbi Peter Wein­traub; new FIDF Long Is­land Di­rec­tor Feli­cia Solomon; and FIDF Na­tional Di­rec­tor and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir. (Photo credit: Sha­har Azran)

(From left, cen­ter) FIDF Na­tional Chair­man Arthur Stark; Founder and Pres­i­dent of the In­ter­na­tional Fel­low­ship of Chris­tians and Jews Rabi Yechiel Eck­stein; FIDF Na­tional Pres­i­dent Rabbi Peter Wein­traub; and FIDF Na­tional Di­rec­tor and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir with Is­raeli sol­diers. (Photo credit: Sha­har Azran)

(From left, cen­ter) FIDF Na­tional Di­rec­tor and CEO Maj. Gen.

(Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir; Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel; FIDF sup­port­ers Michael and Lisa Lef­fell; and Con­fer­ence of Pres­i­dents of Ma­jor Amer­i­can Jewish Or­ga­ni­za­tions Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Chair­man and CEO Mal­colm Hoen­lein with Is­raeli sol­diers. (Photo credit: Sha­har Azran)

(From left) Out­go­ing Is­raeli Air Force (IAF) chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel; leg­endary IAF test pi­lot Danny Shapira; and FIDF Na­tional Di­rec­tor and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir.

(Photo credit: Sha­har Azran)

(From left) FIDF Na­tional Pres­i­dent Rabbi Peter Wein­traub; FIDF Cen­tral Re­gion Board Mem­ber Al Brody; and FIDF Na­tional Di­rec­tor and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir.

(Photo credit: Sha­har Azran)

The Hamp­ton Syn­a­gogue Can­tor Ne­tanel Her­shtik with U.S. and Is­raeli sol­diers at the Oct. 23 FIDF N.Y. Gala Din­ner.

(Photo credit: Sha­har Azran)

Dr. Miriam and Shel­don G. Adel­son with Is­raeli sol­diers. (Photo credit: Sha­har Azran)

Fox Busi­ness Net­work an­chor and gala MC Liz Cla­man in­ter­view­ing Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel. (Photo credit: Sha­har Azran)

An over­view of the Oct. 23 FIDF Na­tional N.Y. Gala Din­ner at the New York Hil­ton Mid­town. (Photo credit: Sha­har Azran)

(From left, cen­ter) FIDF Na­tional Di­rec­tor and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir; FIDF Na­tional Chair­man Arthur Stark; out­go­ing Is­raeli Air Force (IAF) chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel; and FIDF Na­tional Pres­i­dent Rabbi Peter Wein­traub with Is­raeli sol­diers. (Photo credit: Sha­har Azran)

Robin Gor­don, Steve Schac­ter, Ge­orge Le­fkovits, Doug Si­mon, Valerie and Hil­ton Mirels, Dan Moskowitz and Randy Bar­ron Beard (Photo Credit: Lieba Ne­sis)

Chick and Shel­ley Par­adis, Bat­sheva Halpern and Dr. Aviva Bo­jko (Photo Credit: Lieba Ne­sis)

Richard and Amy Miller with Wil­liam Abram­son (Photo Credit: Lieba Ne­sis)

Robert Jossen, Peter Wein­traub and Fe­liks Frenkel (Photo Credit: Lieba Ne­sis)

Shel­don and Miriam Adel­son (Photo Credit: Lieba Ne­sis)

Danny Shapira and writer and pho­tog­ra­pher Lieba Ne­sis

Matthew Lazar and Dr. Ruth (Photo Credit: Lieba Ne­sis)

Ro­nen and Danny Shapira, Arthur Stark and Ma­jor Klifi Amir (Photo Credit: Lieba Ne­sis)

Jenny Polot­sky, Ori Eyal, Ita­mar Efrat and Noa Har­duf (Photo Credit: Lieba Ne­sis)

David and Sharon Halpern (Photo Credit: Lieba Ne­sis)

Ami and Lixi Sagi (Photo Credit: Lieba Ne­sis)

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