THE ANNUAL TRIBUTE Dinner of the New Jersey chapter of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces drew more than 450 supporters to the Sheraton Parsippany Hotel on Nov. 23.
The chapter is often referred to as the “Lone Soldier Chapter,” referring to those who serve in the IDF without immediate family in Israel. The event honorees were FIDF NJ cofounder and national board member Sammy Bar-Or, who moved to Israel from Iran when he was 13 and served as a lone soldier in the IDF’s Paratroopers Brigade, and his son, Tal, an FIDF supporter and leader, and former IDF paratroopers Mike Gross, who also served as a lone soldier, and Avi Oren.
Among those in attendance were active-duty and former IDF soldiers (last names are omitted because of security considerations), including Tenafly resident Cpl. Harrison, a lone soldier serving in the elite Nahal Brigade; Lt. Sara, who commanded the Iron Dome’s central control interceptor room during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge; Cpl. M, who was stabbed and injured by a terrorist in October; Staff Sgt. (Res.) Gili, a special operations unit weapons commander; and Staff Sgt. (Res.) Noa, a paramedic who treated wounded Syrians in the Golan Heights.
“When I served, there was no real understanding of what it meant to be a lone soldier,” said Sammy Bar-Or. “Life is very difficult for IDF soldiers without immediate family in Israel. Supporting the well-being of lone soldiers is a personal calling — and a very important part of FIDF’s mission.”
Lance Drucker served as master of ceremonies; other guests included fashion designer Elie Tahari, FIDF chair Arthur Stark, FIDF national president Peter Weintraub, and FIDF national director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir.
“There are more than 3,000 lone soldiers, including some 800 from the U.S. — many from New Jersey — serving in the IDF,” said FIDF NJ director Howard Gases. “While they leave everything behind and put their lives on the line to help protect Israel and Jews around the world, it is our job to look after their well-being.”
The $1 million raised through the event will go toward well-being and educational programs for IDF soldiers. FIDF was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors with the mission of providing and supporting educational, social, cultural, and recreational programs and facilities for the members of the IDF.