When Murray and Shifra Singerman attended the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Baltimore Annual Gala on Sunday, Sept. 17, they expected to support their children Yaniv and Hila, both serving as Lone Soldiers in Israel, from afar. Little did they know that the night was about to surpass their wildest expectations.
In a video shown during the gala at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, Yaniv, 23, and Hila, 21, spoke about what it is like to leave friends and family behind to enlist the Israel Defense Forces. Yaniv serves as a sergeant in the IDF’s elite Paratroopers Bridgade, and Hila serves as a corporal in the IDF’s foreign relations unit.
“Being a soldier is not the easiest thing, and being a Lone Soldier is just hard. It’s not being home and missing your family,” said Yaniv in the video. “For me it’s hard not seeing my grandparents. I haven’t seen them in a long, long time.”
Suddenly, Yaniv and Hila appeared on stage and embraced their shocked parents.
This reunion was the emotional highlight of the event to support well-being and education programs for IDF soldiers. The gala, co-chaired by Sheldon and Sandy Dobres, raised over $400,000 from 550 leaders from the Baltimore community.
Ohad Benyichai, an Israeli commando who suffered a severe head wound during the infamous 2014 battle in the Gaza Strip’s Shejaiya neighborhood, and Staff Sgt. (Res.) Ofek, who fought by Benyichai’s side, both spoke at the gala.
“It is so incredible to see families reunited here on our stage, and heroes like Ohad have shown us that in the face of the greatest danger and worst tragedies, the brave soldiers of the IDF continue to persevere, showing the best of human nature — demonstrating incredible courage, compassion, and strength,” said FIDF Baltimore President Dr. Gary Applebaum, who presided as the evening’s master of ceremonies.
Receipients of FIDF IMPACT! scholarships attended the gala as well, where some had the opportunity to meet their sponsors. The FIDF IMPACT! Scholarship Program sponsors the college educations of IDF combat veterans of modest means. So far, some 100 supporters from the Baltimore community have sponsored more than 175 IMPACT! Scholarships.
The funds raised at the event will go toward FIDF well-being and educational programs for IDF soldiers. These include the FIDF LEGACY Program, which supports the widows, orphans, and other family members of fallen IDF soldiers through a variety of recreational activities and life-cycle celebrations; the FIDF SPIRIT Program, which provides opportunities for rest and recuperation for Israeli combat soldiers at state-of-the-art resorts in Israel; and the FIDF’s Adopt-A-Brigade Program, which supports soldiers in the adopted brigades by providing financial assistance to soldiers in-need, caring for Lone Soldiers with no immediate family in Israel, and funding rest and recuperation weeks for combat units.
By Malka Goldberg
Malka Goldberg is the Community News editor for Kol HaBirah.