FIDF Celebrates Courage at Annual Gala
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FIDF Celebrates Courage at Annual Gala

Members of the FIDF in Atlanta showed up in solidarity with Israel’s soldiers.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

(l to r): FIDF National Board Member and Chairman Emeritus Garry Sobel; Rabbi Steven Weil, FIDF CEO; IDF Lt. Hayley; Seth Baron, vice president, FIDF Eastern Region; IDF Lt. Opal; Major General (Res.) Nadav Padan, FIDF national director; Regina Broda; Shea Lerner. // Jon Marks Photography
(l to r): FIDF National Board Member and Chairman Emeritus Garry Sobel; Rabbi Steven Weil, FIDF CEO; IDF Lt. Hayley; Seth Baron, vice president, FIDF Eastern Region; IDF Lt. Opal; Major General (Res.) Nadav Padan, FIDF national director; Regina Broda; Shea Lerner. // Jon Marks Photography

On Monday, May 16, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) held their annual celebration at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North. The theme of the night was “courage.”

“I attended my first FIDF event when Naftali Bennett, the 13th prime minister, was the speaker,” recalled FIDF Southeast States Chair Karen Shulman. “I realized that I had found my calling as a leader in FIDF. … Because of IDF soldiers, courage does not just live in Israel. It lives wherever we are, and we are all strengthened by their committed service.”

Karen Shulman, chair of the FIDF Southeast States, with Tracy Seitz, a member of the FIDF Southeast Board.

Temple Sinai Rabbi Natan Trief shared that he was a Lone Soldier from 2007-09, serving in Search and Rescue as a home-front commander. “My wife, Rabbi Samantha Trief, also serves on the FIDF board. I recall many of the benefits the FIDF provided like helping with flights home, food stands set on the side of the road, even supplying a warm bathrobe,” he told the AJT.

The FIDF Eastern Region’s vice president, Seth Baron, introduced Rabbi Steven Weil, FIDF National CEO and the organization’s national director, Major General (Res.) Nadav Padan. Weil made the point that countries typically spend 2-3 percent of their GDP on defense, compared to some 15 percent in Israel. “We give the IDF education and the wings to build Israel,” he said.

Dr. Raimie Tritt, member of the FIDF Southeast States Board, with IDF Lt. Haley.

Following an Israeli-themed buffet catered by A Kosher Touch, some 300 attendees were seated in the blue-hued Grand Ballroom. “I believe we can all agree that the world we face requires great courage,” Baron told those assembled.

“While some may think of courage as an aspiration, Israel’s soldiers have no choice but to be courageous. Courage is mandatory, it comes with the territory. And it is required for us as well. This clarity sets us apart. For we understand we are not one more cause supporting Israel; we are Israel. Without the IDF, there is no Israel. We personally support the brave men and women who make the reality and future of Israel possible.”

Renee Evans, an FIDF supporter, told the AJT, “We are lucky to be able to support the soldiers’ health and welfare. This is our greatest philanthropic investment.”

Atlanta otolaryngologist Ramie Tritt was born in Israel and raised in Montreal, where he says his family experienced antisemitism. He related the time his father was asked in French “if he was Jewish,” to which he replied, “German.”

IDF Lt. Opal shared a video of a conversation she had with her great-grandmother, a Holocaust survivor.

Tritt shared the stage with IDF Lt. Haley, whose early experience was as a pro-Israeli activist. “In college, I had to deal with anti-Israeli sentiments,” she said. After graduating in 2020, she took a direct route to an officer’s course as a Lone Soldier and found herself in COVID isolation in an army facility where the FIDF outfitted her room with Netflix, video games and even her own Sukkah.

Lt. Opal, an IDF welfare officer in the Artillery Corps, shared a video of her conversation with her great-grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, about multiple escapes from the Nazis, as well as the formal ceremony at which her great-grandmother presented her with the IDF officer pin. Lt. Opal spoke about the deeply meaningful nature of her service and the FIDF’s Dignity program, which provides soldiers and their families with essential items.

Garry Sobel, a member of the FIDF national board and chairman emeritus of the Southeast States, delivered the final tribute to Israel’s history of courage.

“Consider the Entebbe raid, the most daring in history, then going door to door in 2014 in Gaza to root out terrorists. Victory is their only option. These soldiers have inherent courage. Tonight, 35 Atlanta (Lone Soldiers) children are standing guard for us. The IDF is a melting pot, taking strides in gender education, experts in cyber technology. Yes, courage lives here.”

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