On May 9, five days before the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel, when the United States opened its new embassy in Jerusalem, 450 people showed their support for the Jewish state’s military at the seventh annual Five Towns and Greater South Shore dinner at the Sephardic Temple in Cedarhurst. The event raised roughly $300,000 for the Friends of Israel Defense Forces.
There are 205 active-duty IDF “Lone Soldiers” — personnel who do not have immediate family in Israel — in New York state. They are typically immigrants, orphans or Israeli-born and estranged from their families.
Though there are no official numbers, FIDF officials said, many of those soldiers are from the Five Towns and the Long Island chapter, which is made up of the South and North shores of the two-county region.
“They help us — we need to support them,” said Ronny Ben Josef, chairman of the Long Island chapter, adding that the Five Towns produces a high percentage of the lone soldiers from New York.
The FIDF offers an array of educational, cultural and recreational programs and services to the IDF’s military personnel, including the lone soldiers, who can be found in 70 countries around the world. There are 6,750 lone soldiers worldwide, according the FIDF.
“These funds go to the soldiers,” said event emcee and Lawrence resident Benjamin Brafman. “Without the soldiers we don’t have eretz Israel,” he added, referring to the land of the Jewish state.
The event was considered a night for heroes: Four Lawrence residents were honored for their support of the FIDF, and a trio of IDF soldiers, representing the army, navy and air force, and the man who piloted the lead airplane involved in the 1976 rescue at Uganda’s Entebbe Airport spoke on behalf of the IDF. The mission rescued 102 passengers who were taken hostage when an Air France flight from to Paris from Tel Aviv was hijacked by terrorists and redirected to Uganda.
Ariel and Baruch Glaubach received the FIDF’s Keepers of the Flame Award for their support of the organization, which was founded in 2012. During Passover this year, the Glaubachs and their eight children toured an IDF base, and the visit intensified their affection and reverence for the soldiers.
“There is nothing more important than supporting the IDF,” Baruch said after he and his wife were presented with the Blue Soldier, an 18-inch-tall glass IDF figurine standing at attention, by Major Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir, the FIDF’s national director and CEO.
The Spirit of Israel Award, also a Blue Soldier, went to Perri and Daniel Moskovic, the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors and lifelong Five Towners. Daniel attended Rambam Mesivta, in Lawrence, and Perri went to the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway — and they were married at the Sephardic Temple seven years ago. The couple, who have a son, Joseph, 3, and a daughter, Molly, 9 months, support the Haruv Battalion through the FIDF’s Adopt A Battalion program. The family visited the battalion last year.
Noting the symbol that Jews under the Nazis were forced to wear, and how the modern Jewish state was born out of the Holocaust, Daniel Moskovic said, “The yellow star of David was replaced with the blue and white of Israel.”
As a baby, Brig. Gen. (Res.) Joshua Shani was in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp near the end of World War II. Roughly 30 years later, he was one of several members of the IDF who were hailed as heroes for the daring “Operation Entebbe.”
“When I came back, I went to the house to celebrate. Can you imagine what went through my father’s mind after the IDF made this rescue?” Shani said, trying to explain the emotions of people who lived through the Holocaust and then saw a strong Jewish country. He is now the CEO of Lockheed Martin, Israel.
Captain S — for security reasons, names of active IDF personnel are not revealed — said she enlisted in 2010. “I don’t mind who is standing to my left or to my right, as long as they are committed to Israel,” she said. FIDF officials said that 51 percent of IDF officers are women.
Staff Sergeant M, who was raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, said he had helped protect his neighborhood from anti-Semitic thugs, and that motivated him to join the IDF. “The FIDF helped me fly home to see my ailing mother,” he said, adding that it was just before she died.
Recounting his family’s Holocaust story, Captain Y said that his great-grandmother had begged a German soldier not to kill her and her daughter. That daughter, the captain’s grandmother, came from Israel to attend the dinner. “She never forgot that soldier’s face,” Captain Y said, “and now she is living in the Jewish state, and that is our victory.”
For more about the FIDF, go to www.fidf.org.