IMG_3974-0.JPGOne way that my wife, Peggy, and I enjoy helping make a difference is through supporting the Friends of Israel Defense Forces. The “FIDF” helps the Israeli armed forces – the front line of defense who keep the State of Israel safe, who keep democracy alive and strong in the Middle East and who allow the Jews of the world to have a homeland where they are always welcome.

The Israel Defense Forces or “The IDF” is made up of men and women from all walks of life and from all parts of the Jewish world and whose mission it is to defend the existence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state of Israel, to protect the inhabitants of Israel and to combat all forms of terrorism which threaten daily life. Of interest to those in the United States, perhaps, is the fact that at any given time there are an average of 2,800 Lone Soldiers – soldiers whose families do not live in Israel and who have left their countries of origin to serve the State of Israel. Even more impressive is that approximately 40% of the Lone Soldiers enroll for extra training and serve in combat roles!

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The Friends of Israel Defense Forces is an American-based, 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces with love, support and care, in an effort to ease the burden they carry on behalf of the worldwide Jewish community. The FIDF does this throughinitiating and supporting a wide variety of educational, social, cultural and recreational programs and facilities. The organization also provides support for the families of fallen soldiers.

By way of example, the “Legacy”, “Lone Soldiers” and “Impact!” Programs are some of the best programs of their kind that I can think of. The Legacy Program provides tremendous support for the families of soldiers who have died in support of country. They support thousands of people , helping them rebuild the future for their families and, through volunteers in Israel and the U.S., help them mark Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, holidays and other major celebrations. The Lone Soldiers Program, supports the Lone Soldiers of the IDF with all sorts of assistance and support, so they never really feel alone. They provide adoptive families, Shabbat and holiday meals, a social network, including their own assistance and social center, grants and financial assistance and perhaps most appreciated, assistance with flights to visit their families at home. The Impact! Program, provides four-year college scholarships to combat veterans of the IDF. Each year, hundreds of soldiers who would otherwise be unable to afford college, receive a college education in the areas they desire and obtain degrees thanks to this program.

Legacy, Lone Soldier and Impact! are just three of many programs that the FIDF has created. In addition to these great programs, the FIDF also spends millions of dollars a year building facilities that benefit the men and women of the IDF. These include on-base auditoriums, medical facilities, gymnasiums, recreational centers and synagogues.

My parents both served in the IDF when they lived in Israel. They both emigrated to Israel when young and went into the army when called. They remain proud of their service and of their country. Even though I have lived in the United States allmy life, I have frequently visited Israel and, as a Jew, a child of Israeli parents and a friend to many who have served, I have come to admire the strength and prowess of the IDF, as well as to understand its true value to the Jewish world and the State of Israel.

My parents have always loved and fostered learning and education. Not only for the benefit of my siblings and I, but for their employees, their wider family and the communities they have lived in. I too have always loved learning. Over the course of my life of learning, I have come to believe that in education lies the strongest tool for growth and, ultimately,peace.

My grandparents and my parents have also taught us that it is our duty to help those in need. Peggy and I also take the time to foster this sense of duty in our children. That is why, when my parents became supporters of the FIDF, and in particular the Impact! Program, it was natural for Peggy, my siblings and I to all support this cause and to share the experiences with our children.

We have supported the start of a New Jersey Chapter of the FIDF, we have participated in graduation ceremonies in Israel for Impact! participants and have over the years, as a family, provided several hundred Impact! scholarships. We love thisprogram and it loves us back. All of “our” students write to us every year and we get to keep in touch with them and their progress. We believe it is a great way to support and be involved with the future of Israel and in particular the education of those who serve her.

The FIDF has a catchy slogan . . . “Their job is to look after Israel. Ours is to look after them.” I think this sums up why it is important to support the FIDF. Without the IDF – supported by the FIDF – the State of Israel would not be what it is today and would not have as bright a future as it does.

If you want to learn more, please visit the FIDF website at www.fidf.org. There you will find more information and learn about ways to get involved. From simply supporting the organization financially, to participating in FIDF Missions (visits to IDF bases or trips to foster Holocaust education and awareness), to mitzvah projects for Bar and Bat Mitzvah, to participating in a local Gala or other fundraiser and many other ways – there is a way for everyone to become a part of this great organization. I urge you to take the first step – please visit the website! In addition, if anyone would like to participate in next year’s NJ Chapter Gala Dinner (usually in October/November) where we focus on support for Lone Soldiers, please drop me a line at rgross@g-holdings.com and I will make sure you are invited and connected to the right people in the organization.

Ron Gross