Long soldiers who come from the Five Towns, surrounding communities, the U.S. and other countries to serve in the Israel Defense Forces were honored by more than 600 people at the Friends of Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) fourth annual South Shore dinner at the Sephardic Temple in Cedarhurst on May 27.
New York-based FIDF provides lone soldiers with financial assistance and helps them find places to live, make social connections and find post-service educational programs. Lone soldiers are personnel serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) who do not have immediate family in Israel.
Keynote speaker Ben Brafman, a Lawrence resident and noted criminal lawyer who once again served as master of ceremonies, said that his usual jovial manner would be set aside as this year’s dinner was a somber occasion.
“This is a serious program tonight,” he said, reflecting on the 70 lives lost in Operation Protective Edge in Gaza last summer. “There is nothing funny about what happened in the time between last year’s dinner and this year. The FIDF supports its soldiers. This is not a charity. It is our duty to be here tonight. It is only because of the IDF that we rest easy at night.”
Rhea Grob of Lawrence attended the dinner to support her daughter, a college graduate who joined the IDF last year. She said her daughter said she was moving to Israel and wanted to give back to her Jewish community.
“It’s still very hard, very tough because I miss her,” she said. “But I’m very proud of her. She eventually wants to be a writer. She’ll serve for two years, and then pursue that. She can write from anywhere in the world if she wants.”
Special guest speaker Shimon Shalev’s son, IDF Staff Sergeant Shahar Shalev, was killed in Gaza last year. “We were lucky that we had the time to say goodbye,” Shimon said.
“We believe that G-d knew what he was doing. We want to thank the FIDF Long Island for having our back.”