SPREADING AWARENESS AND KNOWLEDGE WORLDWIDE
BY MICHELLE WINER
With tensions rising and conflict escalating in Israel, the IDF’s role continues to grow in importance. Every single day, the young men and women of the IDF are on the frontlines tirelessly fighting to defend Israel’s borders. The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) gives civilians an extraordinary chance to make a difference in these soldiers’ lives and to show their steadfast support for Israel. Southeast Region Chairman, Garry Sobel explains, “We support folks who lay it on the line on a daily basis, who guard the borders and who are very actively involved in the situation today in Israel. However, we do it from a humanitarian standpoint. Regardless of your political views you have got to support the soldiers.”Garry Sobel
Through donor involvement, FIDF programs like the IMPACT! Scholarship Program, the SPIRIT Program, the Dignity Program, the Adopt a Brigade Program, the Wounded Warrior Program, and the Lone Soldier Program have provided soldiers with lifechanging opportunities.
One of the FIDF’s most significant and successful educational programs is the IMPACT! Scholarship Program. The IMPACT! Scholarship Program offers former combat soldiers of socioeconomic challenged families the opportunity to receive a four-year college education. It is a sixteen thousand dollar commitment over a four-year period of time, and one hundred percent of those proceeds go towards that soldier. “We’re not investing in scholarships, we’re investing in futures,” Seth Baron, Executive Director of the Southeast Region, explains. “These young men and women have put their lives on the line in support of a Jewish homeland. So for us as an organization and for individuals like Garry, who sponsor these soldiers, it’s the least we can do.”
The program gives the brave men and women of the IDF the gift of a higher education. Due to the growing popularity of the program, the number of applicants has greatly increased. Baron explains, “There are a far greater number of applicants than we have been able to provide. It’s not that they’re not qualified; it’s that as a national organization we’re running out of resources. So if we can get more people to contribute to the IMPACT! Scholarship Program then we’ll be able to support more soldiers.”Seth Baron
Not only does the FIDF offer educational opportunities for the soldiers of the IDF, the organization provides opportunities for the public to learn as well. The FIDF Southeast Region’s primary objective is to educate the communities of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. “From a standpoint from the Jewish community in Atlanta, we have a lot of work to do… we’ve got to continue to get our message out,” says Sobel. Baron adds, “We’ve been in Atlanta since 2007, the organization has been in existence since 1981, so we’re a little bit behind the rest of the United States with regards to the sheer education element of what we do as an organization.” By forming strong relationships with Atlanta’s pro-Israel Christian community, Israeli community, synagogues, chabads, and Jewish day schools, the FIDF Southeast Region is increasing awareness and knowledge among adults and children alike.
There are multiple events hosted by the FIDF that allow individuals to learn about the organization, the organization’s goals, the IDF, and the state of Israel. Events such as the Legends and Heroes of the IDF give members of the community the chance to learn about the IDF and to hear former combat soldiers tell their remarkable tales. Baron describes the significance of this newly established event: “A lot of these heroes are getting older and won’t be with us much longer. We want them to be able to tell their stories. If you’re involved with FIDF we’re going to give you access to these legends and heroes. Our job is really to bring awareness of the IDF…and as important as it is to bring in these young combat soldiers… it’s just as important to educate the masses about the heroes who came before them and what it meant then and means today for the state of Israel.”
The Legends and Heroes of the IDF event is a captivating and enjoyable occasion, which gives audiences the chance to meet and form personal relationships with the individuals who have made Israel’s existence possible.
Sobel gives a powerful summation of the cherished institution, “The organization is unique. Nobody else does what we do at the level we do it. With our vast programming and services, I know we’re making a difference.”
Editor’s note: for more information about FIDF go to www.fidf.org