Friends of the Israel Defense Forces
Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) (in Hebrew ארגון ידידי צה״ל בארה״ב) is an organization dedicated to the wellbeing of the men and women serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the families of fallen soldiers, and was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors. Headquartered in New York City, FIDF is a 501©(3) not-for-profit organization that operates 17 regional offices in the United States and Panama.
FIDF sponsors an array of programs and construction projects to improve the wellbeing of IDF soldiers both in their day-to-day routine and after their army service.
These include education programs such as the IMPACT! Scholarship Program which sponsors four-year scholarships for combat soldiers from low socioeconomic backgrounds otherwise unable to further their education. Students are also required to do 130 hours of community service per year.
Education programs also include those targeting specific populations, like Ethiopian-Israelis and at-risk[clarification needed] youth, helping to sharpen their skills and open up opportunities after their service, as well as Jewish education programs strengthening soldiers’ and commanders’ Jewish identities and their bond with Israel.
FIDF wellbeing programs help alleviate soldiers’ hardships. The SPIRIT Program, for example, gives combat soldiers a week at an R&R resort, allowing them to recuperate from an exhausting, strenuous routine and then return to their duties reenergized.
FIDF’s DIGNITY Program helps the IDF’s soldiers in financial need, as many as one out of five soldiers in need of some assistance with 3,000 soldiers eligible for welfare because of their parents’ low incomes. FIDF provides holiday and food vouchers, basic appliances like beds and stoves and grants funds to these soldiers, ensuring they can focus on the task of keeping Israel safe.
Adopt a Brigade is FIDF’s newest wellbeing program, encompassing the SPIRIT and DIGNITY programs as well as the Lone Soldier Program. The IDF’s Lone Soldiers are those who left their countries of origin to join the IDF and protect the State of Israel. Their families and friends far away, Lone Soldiers face the challenges of being a soldier alone. FIDF helps Lone Soldiers financially, emotionally and socially during this challenging time in their lives, ensuring they know they are truly never alone.
FIDF also helps wounded soldiers during and after their service.
The organization also builds and refurbishes gyms, wellbeing centers, infirmaries, synagogues and more on IDF bases.
In addition to its national headquarters in New York and its office in Israel, FIDF’s 17 chapters and regions include the following:
- Tri-State Region
- Western Region/Los Angeles
- San Diego Region
- San Francisco Bay Area Region
- Central Region
- Greater Miami Region
- Palm Beach/Broward Region
- Arizona Region
- Ohio Region
- Michigan Region
- Atlanta Region
- Pennsylvania & Southern New Jersey Region
- New England Region
- Midatlantic Region
- Texas Region
- Washington, D.C. Chapter
- FIDF Panama
FIDF collects tax-deductible donations through a variety of fundraising efforts including its website and small-scale parlor meetings with donors. It also hosts annual gala dinners. Many high-level Israeli and American officials and cultural icons have spoken and participated at these galas including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon, actor Jason Alexander, music producer David Foster and actor-singer Barbra Streisand. Events also include soldiers and commanders from throughout the IDF and bereaved family members of dead soldiers.