My organization, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, this month is partnering with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews to provide $1.5 million in Rosh Hashanah gift cards so that more than 12,000 Israel Defense Forces soldiers in need and lone soldiers can celebrate a sweet new year.
There are 7,133 lone soldiers serving in the IDF today. Fifty-three percent of them come from abroad, hailing from 80 countries around the world. About 844 are Americans, with nearly 30 of them originally from Georgia.
In June, FIDF sponsored the biggest-ever fun day for lone soldiers to kick off Israel’s first IDF Appreciation Week, and these gift cards are just the latest example of how FIDF cares for lone soldiers financially, socially and emotionally during and after their challenging military service. FIDF also sponsors flights for lone soldiers to visit their families and friends in their countries of origin. FIDF’s Lone Soldiers Program is one of its flagship initiatives — and a source of pride for the Atlanta community.
These Rosh Hashanah gift cards benefit all lone soldiers and help other soldiers in need celebrate the new year without the burden of financial stress.
Over 10,000 eligible soldiers will receive a gift card in the amount of 500 shekels (about $140), and some 2,200 soldiers are eligible for a gift card of 350 shekels (about $100). Soldiers will be able to purchase supplies such as food, clothing, shoes, sporting goods and leisure products.
Besides caring for the well-being of Israel’s lone soldiers, FIDF initiates and supports many other educational and well-being programs for IDF soldiers, such as the Legacy program, which this summer brought 57 children and siblings of fallen IDF soldiers to the United States for summer camps, and the Impact! Scholarship Program, which grants college scholarships to Israeli combat veterans of modest means.
We in Atlanta and the Southeast proudly serve these brave young men and women. During the 2016-17 academic year, the Atlanta community sponsored 38 FIDF Impact! scholarships — worth $16,000 apiece — for IDF veterans to pursue their academic dreams, and our community is sponsoring more than 65 scholarships for the upcoming school year.
Four years ago, as part of the FIDF Adopt-a-Brigade Program, the FIDF Southeast Region, which includes the Atlanta community, adopted the IDF’s Combat Intelligence Collection Corps, for which we have raised more than $1.18 million. We hope to surpass $1.5 million before the end of 2017.
The program allows supporters to go beyond their donations and to get more involved, providing financial aid for IDF soldiers and their families in need, supporting lone soldiers, and funding general well-being activities and weeks of rest and recuperation for soldiers of the adopted brigade.
FIDF also recognizes the important need to think about the next generation and recruit and cultivate future leaders. The FIDF Southeast Region’s Young Leadership has seen tremendous growth the past two years and has become an essential part of FIDF’s success in Atlanta.
Our next Atlanta gala dinner will be held Monday, May 14, 2018, at the InterContinental Buckhead. One of the premier events for the Atlanta Jewish community, our gala gives supporters the opportunity to meet Israeli soldiers and hear firsthand about the tremendous impact FIDF’s educational and well-being programs have on their lives.
On behalf of FIDF, I wish you a good and sweet new year. Please help us wish the same to Israel’s brave men and women in uniform by signing our Rosh Hashanah card online at www.fidf.org/signthecard.
Seth Baron is the executive director of the Southeast Region of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (www.fidf.org/southeast).