FIDF honors Benjamin Brafman for support to idf soldiers

Event’s proceeds support Israel’s soldiers and veterans


The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces honored Lawrence resident Benjamin Brafman at their annual Five Towns and Greater South Shore Evening of Solidarity at The Sands in Atlantic Beach on May 29.

The FIDF is a non-political, non-military organization that provides for the well-being of active IDF soldiers, veterans and family members. It was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors, and is the only organization authorized by the Israeli army to collect charitable donations for the IDF in the United States.

Because of the ongoing war with Hamas, the FIDF didn’t know if last week’s event would be held.

“It’s really special to see everyone in this community come together to support our soldiers,” Stephanie Feit, the organization’s associate director for Long Island, said. “Everyone knows how important it is, but to see everyone take some time out of their day and lend their support to our soldiers in Israel is really meaningful.”

The gala is a fundraiser, and all proceeds go directly to the IDF. “Our hopes are that people will see our program and participate, and then be moved to give additionally as well,” Feit said.

The FIDF is in constant contact with the IDF and Israel’s Ministry of Defense, and regularly packages and sends supplies that the IDF needs — everything from food and clothing to medical kits for soldiers’ backpacks, to fully stocked ambulances

“The message of tonight is our soldiers’ needs are more pressing than ever, and we hope that everyone will come together to really support them,” Feit said. “At FIDF, we are fortunate to be in contact with the IDF and Ministry of Defense every day to find out exactly what the soldiers need.”

Last week’s program began with the signing of the United States’ and Israel’s national anthems, led by Cantor Joel Kaplan of Congregation Beth Shalom in Lawrence. Then David Goldenberg led a prayer for IDF soldiers and the Israeli hostages.

For the past 11 years, Brafman has served as the master of ceremonies for FIDF. When asked to be the honoree this year, he thought, “If not now, then when?” he said. More than 450 people attended the event.

“If I were 25, I’d be in the Israeli Army, but I’m not, so there’s a couple of things I can do to help,” Brafman said. “This is the 100th dinner that I’ve either served as master of ceremonies or hosted.”

Brafman is a well-known criminal defense lawyer, and emceeing is what he calls his “second job.” He respects the FIDF, he said, and he believes it does great work.

“If not now, and not on behalf of the IDF, then I don’t know what else I could do,” Brafman said. “This is one of the most appropriate honors I’ve accepted in my life. Israel is a part of my heart.”

Brafman was presented with a soldier statue by FIDF Chief Executive Rabbi Steve Weil and Ronny Ben-Josef, a national board member of the organization and its Long Island chair.

One of the IDF soldiers in attendance, a sergeant major who was identified only by her first name, Hannah, described how the FIDF has impacted her army career. Originally from France, she moved to Israel when she was 17. She joined the IDF at 18 as a lone soldier — one who does not have family in Israel — and served in the combat medic unit.

“I spent three months sleeping in fields along the Gaza border and taking care of wounded soldiers,” Hannah said. “I then joined a tank unit, where I was the only woman.

“When I entered Gaza, I felt like my life was in danger more than ever,” she went on. “I knew that I was in enemy territory, and I must do the best that I can to protect my team.”

After spending a month in Gaza, Hannah was deployed to Nablus, in the West Bank. For the past six months she has been arresting terrorists in their West Bank homes.

“Every day I use the medical supplies FIDF provides to treat injuries and save the lives of our soldiers,” she said. “My team even received a new, fully stocked FIDF ambulance, a moving emergency room that gets our soldiers to helicopters or to hospitals while we treat them inside.”

“Their job is to look after Israel,” Weil said of the IDF. “Ours is to look after them.”