Friends of the Israel Defense Force experienced a well-timed, well-attended, upbeat, flag-waving program at their annual celebration on May 1 at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North.
The evening began in the pre-function VIP room, where Seth Baron, vice president of the FIDF Georgia & Southeast States, welcomed Israel Consul General to the Southeast, Anat Sultan-Dadon, and Rabbi Steve Weil, FIDF’s CEO. Highly decorated U.S. military personnel mingled with attendees.
After an Israeli-themed, mega-stationed buffet, catered by A Kosher Touch, 350-plus attendees were seated in the Grand Ballroom with dessert amid vertical blow-up photos of IDF personnel and flags.
Baron commanded the podium by sharing that the most frequent question he fields is, “How much difference are we really making?” He answered, “An incredible amount! twelve years in Atlanta raising $26 million, and 2022 ending in a record year of $3.3 million,” with confidence that the impact will continue.”
Current FIDF Southeast States Chair Karen Shulman began with naming former IDF soldiers who made their world mark — from astronauts, scientists, and celebrities like Gal Gadot, to local leaders like Rabbi Natan Trief and Julie Silverman.
Shulman said, “Although I have no family or direct ties to Israel, I see how hard-fought and transformative the IDF is, and choose it to be my ‘calling.’” Shulman has a special interest in helping soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder and visited Israeli bases with her family in December.
The highlight of the program was when three brave soldiers, whose stories were told first in video, were introduced, respectively, by local FIDF board members, Justine Cohen, Tracy Seitz, and Garry Sobel, national board member and chairman emeritus, Georgia & Southeast States.
Lt. Barr, of the Search and Rescue Unit, Operation Olive Branch, relayed the dramatic IDF humanitarian effort “as a force for good in the world” by being on-site in the recent Turkey earthquake. A young boy was rescued by Barr’s team and reunited with his sister, who was rescued one-week prior, by a different IDF rescue team. During seven days of tireless efforts, this Olive Branch delegation treated 470 injured civilians including 150 children and saved 19 lives.
Sgt Gila, Lavi HaBik’a, patrols the Jericho area on multi-cultural soil where she foiled a potentially massive terrorist attack. She recounted, “We thought we had neutralized them, then five to eight more came out burning tires and packed with weapons. My instincts kicked in and we acted with no doubt. Yes, women can serve in combat shoulder to shoulder with the men.”
She then mentioned how much she appreciated the FIDF dining lounge on her base and valuing the idea of feeling appreciated.
Sgt Rose, Magav Border Police, explained her role guarding the Muslim Quarter in the Old City. “Here I am at the Villa De la Rosa checking IDs for 8-13 hours at a time having just slept with my body cam and M5.”
She ended on a lighter note, “If you ever stroll through the Damascus Gate, toss me a high five and I will welcome you.” Her extended family includes the Lubin, Halpern, Hirsch and Oppenheimer families, with more than 40 members joining this event.
Sobel delivered the final words explaining that defense comes at a tremendous cost.
“Atlanta has sent an average of 35 lone soldiers (annually) over the past 10 years. 24,213 soldiers overall have paid with their lives — the ultimate price for having a country. The children of the Diaspora are coming home to defend her. Our trips to the Kotel, tourism, hotel stays, would be out of reach without the IDF.”
Chatting earlier with the AJT, supporter Lowell Fine stated that he keeps in touch with several of the soldiers whose education (as IMPACT scholars) he supported. He said, “The FIDF helps these soldiers in so many different ways.”
Suzanne and Joel Eisenberg, whose two sons, David and Matthew, both served as Lone Soldiers (2015-2017) also commented on the evening.
Joel Eisenberg stated, “I’m incredibly proud.” Mom, Suzanne, echoed, “Having these young boys defend Israel has increased our love and admiration for the country. Matthew was awarded the Most Outstanding Soldier in his 150-person platoon. We treasure his photo in this special green beret.”
Atlanta Lone Soldier Lt. Rose explained that she graduated Dunwoody High School and has served 16 months with 14 more remaining. She said, “I may sign up for more IDF roles or seek higher education in exercise science.”
- Marcia Caller Jaffe
- Friends of the Israel Defense Force
- Westin Atlanta Perimeter North
- Seth Baron
- Israel Consul General to the Southeast
- Anat Sultan-Dadon
- Steve Weil
- A Kosher Touch
- Karen Shulman
- Gal Gadot
- Rabbi Natan Trief
- Julie Silverman
- Justine Cohen
- Tracy Seitz
- garry sobel
- Operation Olive Branch
- Magav Border Police
- Damascus Gate
- Lowell Fine
- Suzanne and Joel Eisenberg
- Lone Soldier
- Dunwoody High School