(From left) Staff Sgt. Idan, Al Frank, Border Police Staff Sgt. Avishay, Sgt. Barak
(From left) Staff Sgt. Idan, Al Frank, Border Police Staff Sgt. Avishay, Sgt. Barak Susan Ryan Kalina Photography

Some 150 leaders from the Chicago-area Jewish community gathered on Sunday, Aug. 20, at the North Shore home of Cindy and Izzy Levyfor the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Central Region Summer Benefit, raising a record $7.5 million to support education and well-being programs for Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers.

The exclusive afternoon event featured special guest speaker IDF Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Avi Mizrachi, who commanded Israel’s ground forces and technology and logistics branch and now works for a top Israeli defense electronics contractor.

Also speaking at the event were Sgt. 1st Class (Res.) Barak, Staff Sgt. (Res.) Avishay, and Staff Sgt. (Res.) Idan, who are all IDF combat veterans of modest means whose college educations are sponsored through FIDF’s IMPACT! Scholarship Program.

“I wanted to give a special thanks to all who support FIDF’s IMPACT! Program,” said Izzy Levy. “These veterans don’t have the means to pursue higher education. They find it incredible that all of you here today, despite being thousands of miles across the ocean, will support them and help provide for their futures, and the future of Israel.”

“It is so important for Israeli soldiers to know that they have people like you who love them, and care about their well-being,” said FIDF National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir. “I can’t tell you how much it boosts their morale to know that they will be able to pursue education thanks to you – or to see the names of FIDF supporters on construction projects for well-being and recreation centers on their bases across Israel. It really means the world to them.”

“We are incredibly grateful for the tremendous support Chicago’s Jewish community has shown for the future and well-being of Israel’s brave soldiers,” added FIDF Midwest Region Executive Director Tamir Oppenheim.

Distinguished guests included FIDF Central Region Chairman and National Board Member Daniel J. Hyman; FIDF Central Region Vice President and National Board Treasurer Rob Selati; FIDF Summer Benefit co-host Izzy Levy, Hezi Levy, and Judd Malkin; FIDF National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir; and FIDF Midwest Region Executive Director Tamir Oppenheim.