1.4 Million Raised at the Western Regional FIDF Fundraiser for Nahal Haredi
Many of L.A.’s most ardent Israel supporters gathered at the Peninsula Hotel on Sunday, April 29th to raise funds for Nahal Haredi, also known as the Netzach Yehuda Battalion. This Friends of the IDF (FIDF) event highlighted the challenges and successes of the battalion’s members and honored Chairman Emeritus and Executive Board member, Leo David.
Nahal Haredi gives Torah-observant young men who choose to enlist in the army the opportunity to keep mitzvos without any compromises. The soldiers of Nahal Haredi face unique issues. Their families may not approve of their army service. In some cases, they are not welcome home when on leave. FIDF fills in the gap by providing a home and supportive environment.
Executive Director Jenna Griffin introduced FIDF Western Region President Tony Rubin, who spoke about one of FIDF supported programs, Impact. Impact provides scholarship funds to soldiers who have completed their service and don’t have the means to go to college. On a recent trip to Israel, Mr. Rubin and his wife Linda visited a soldier who was a recipient of this assistance, and they were both deeply moved by the soldier’s gratitude. In fact, the soldier insisted they accept his certificate of service. Tony Rubin said that experience made them feel better than they ever felt in their lives.
Mr. Rubin then introduced his longtime friend, Rabbi Tzvi Klebanow, Co-Founder and Director of Nahal Haredi. Rabbi Klebanow thanked the host and co-chairmen Robert Zarnegin and David Hager. He described Robert as “having a heart of pure gold.” During a recent trip to Israel, Mr. Zarnegin visited the lone soldier facility in Yerushalayim. Upon realizing that this was the place soldiers would call home that had no other place to go, Mr. Zarnegin immediately dedicated the new facility. Subsequently, after witnessing the soldiers preventing an escalation following an altercation, he personally thanked each and every soldier.
Executive board member David Hager has been equally dedicated donating his time and money to make Nachal Haredi a success. Rabbi Klebanow also recognized executive board members and generous donors Steve Rosedale, of Cinncinati, and Henry Orlinsky, of Teaneck. Adam Milstein, IAC Chairman of the Board of the IAC, was in attendance.
Rabbi Klebanow also thanked CEO Yochanon Danzinger and CFO Norman Blaustein. They both collectively have 80 years of management experience and were described as a source of inspiration to the board and entire staff, each having made a powerful impact on the organization. Amazingly, they are volunteers.
Mr. Blaustein’s selfless devotion began the day after his wife Sara and a passenger in their car were murdered by terrorists. He was also injured in the attack. He related that following a previous incident during the intifada, he and his wife Sara had a conversation about what they would do if ever anything happened to them. Isru Chag Shavuot, they were driving to the Kotel when the attack took place. In accordance to their promise to each other, Mr. Blaustein retired the next day and has been doing chessed nonstop ever since.
The goals of Nahal Haredi, said Mr. Kebanow, are unity, growth, and success. This success is achieved by assisting soldiers face the transition of going into the IDF, then any challenges throughout their service, and finally their transition back to civilian life and into the work force.
Nahal Haredi soldiers do chessed in the community, which creates unity. Before Purim, for example, hundreds of them go into hospitals, old age homes, and the private homes of individuals of the homebound elderly. Hadassah asked Nahal Haredi if the soldiers could possibly come back and visit more patients. “Do you know what it means when a Charedi soldier comes into a hospital full of secular Jews and dances and sings and blesses them for good health?” asked Rabbi Klebanow. He said that anyone could see it in their eyes, an appreciation and love for one another.
There are also many heartwarming stories of families that have been reunited thanks to the 17-plus expert mentors who provide all types of support, including bridging the gap between soldiers and their families, who may have a negative impression of military life.
Another way Nahal Haredi creates unity is through sharing the burden to protect Israel with non-observant and non-Charedi Israelis.
Rabbi Klebanow said that the second goal, growth, is demonstrated when many soldiers who joined the IDF speaking about their own needs leave saying they are happy they served for the benefit of klal Yisrael.
Nahal Haredi has already proven itself to be successful over the past 19 years. It has produced 10,000 veterans who are providing for themselves and leading happy, fulfilling lives. A personal story was shared by former platoon commander and current reserve commander, Yaniv Levy, who is one of thousands of success stories.
Yaniv said that he grew up in a Charedi family and was expected to learn his whole life in yeshiva like his father and brother. However, when he was only 12 years old, some of his friends from cheder took him to “the street,” where he ended up in a string of broken relationships, hooked on drugs and alcohol. He wanted to have the “fun” life, but when friends elected to join Nahal Haredi, he joined them. Yaniv soon after received recognition for outstanding service, and he said, “little by little I understood that freedom without responsibility is not freedom at all and that sacrificing for my nation, my land, and my people make me a success in life.” Yaniv met the love of his life and is now living a happy, observant life with two beautiful children.
A brief video followed about the incredible story of Leo David. Mr. David, aged 91, grew up in Germany. When the SS came knocking on his door, he saw the danger and immediately left for what was then Palestine and fought in the Haganah. He continues today to be a soldier for Israel. After he came to America and established many successful businesses, including Leo’s Stereos, his success enabled him to support vital organizations in Israel. Saying he too comes from a religious background, David donated $400,000 to Nahal Haredi.
Other attendees included Adam Milstein, another donor, and Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean and Founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Rabbi Hier related in an interview that he regards Nahal Haredi to be “one of the most important institutions in Israel,” and says Charedi soldiers who are serving in the army are doing a first class kiddush Hashem.” Rabbi Hier said the soldiers’ service is bringing unity to the rest of society to those parents who have had sons and daughters in the IDF for more than half a century. He also praised the soldiers for following in the footsteps of David HaMelech, who was also in the army, and quoted from Tanach, “Al yidei David, Mashiach tzidkecha.”