AMBASSADOR DANNY AYALON, KEYNOTE SPEAKER FIDF National Board Member and Chairman of the Southeast Region, Garry Sobel, and Lt. Avihai Rigbi, honoring the fallen soldiers
Photo credit: Greg Mooney

SPECIAL FOR THE AJT

The Friends of the IDF (FIDF) Southeast Region hosted its 2014 Atlanta Gala Dinner, with over 400 FIDF supporters who gathered at the Georgia Aquarium and raised more than $450,000 for programs supporting the wellbeing of those who serve in the IDF. The gala featured active-duty Israeli soldiers, a special performance by the IDF Naval Ensemble, and honored the 24 Lone Soldiers from Atlanta who left their families and friends to make Aliyah (move to Israel) and join the IDF.

Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Danny Ayalon, who served as the keynote speaker, explained: “Not only do the soldiers of the IDF protect the citizens of Israel, but also Jews around the world. In addition, your commitment to FIDF in Atlanta and the Southeast Region will forever strengthen the bond between Israel, the soldiers, and your community.”

The gala focused on three life-changing FIDF programs: the Lone Soldiers Program, the IMPACT! Scholarship Program, and the Adopt-A-Brigade Program.

The Lone Soldiers Program supports IDF soldiers, with no immediate family living in Israel, financially, socially, and emotionally during their military service.

FIDF IMPACT! Scholarship recipient Karina Shatainluf and FIDF IMPACT! Scholarship donor Lindy Shallcross
Photo credit: Greg Mooney

The IMPACT! Program provides IDF combat soldiers, who have completed their military service, but cannot afford the cost of higher education with the opportunity to attend college. The students must complete 130 hours of community service for every year of their scholarship. Scholarship recipient Karina Shatainluf, originally from Kazakhstan, made Aliyah with her family in 1994. She served in an IDF observation post overlooking the Gaza Strip. She is currently studying biology at Ariel University with the help of her scholarship from the IMPACT!

Recently, the FIDF Southeast Region adopted the IDF Combat Intelligence Corps as part of the FIDF Adopt-A-Brigade Program. This program allows supporters to closely connect with IDF soldiers, providing financial aid for soldiers in-need and their families, supporting Lone Soldiers, sponsoring general wellbeing activities, and granting scholarships. Lieutenant Avihai Rigbi, a Platoon Commander in the IDF Combat Intelligence Corps, spoke movingly about his experiences serving in the IDF and about the impact of FIDF’s support. Avihai also reflected on recently losing his good friend and brother-in-arms, Captain Tal Nachman z”l, who was killed while on a mission near the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip.

The IDF Naval Ensemble, which performed at the event, features four talented young Israeli soldiers who regularly perform on army bases, in major ceremonies and at special events throughout Israel. At the gala, the Naval Ensemble moved the audience to sing along with popular and traditional Israeli songs.

“What a wonderful night! The pro-Israel community should be very proud of how they responded with their support for the brave men and women serving in the IDF. I

FIDF National Board Member and Chairman of the Southeast Region, Garry Sobel, Founder of the Georgia Aquarium, Bernie Marcus, Executive Director of the FIDF Southeast
Photo credit: Greg Mooney

find myself being inspired each time I hear the stories of our soldiers, their dedication and their sacrifices. The work of FIDF is so important to each soldier as they protect the Jewish State of Israel,” said Executive Director of the FIDF Southeast Region, Seth Baron.

Special guests at the gala also included FIDF National Director and CEO, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon, and FIDF National Board Member and Chairman of the Southeast Region, Garry Sobel. The gala was co-chaired by Aviva and Eyal Postelnik and Helen and David Zalik, and the host committee chair was Felicia Voloschin.

Editor’s note: for more, please visit: www.fidf.org. Media contact: Rachel Channon, Puder Public Relations: (212) 558-9400; c: (847) 372-0887; Rachel@PuderPR.com