Friends of the Israel Defense Forces
|Motto||Their job is to look after Israel. Ours is to look after them.|
|Legal status||501(c)(3) nonprofit organization|
|Mission||To provide for the education and well-being of the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces|
Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) (in Hebrew ארגון ידידי צה״ל בארה״ב) is an organization established in 1981 dedicated to the men and women serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), wounded veterans, and the families of fallen soldiers. Headquartered in New York City, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that operates fifteen regional offices in the United States and Panama. Friends of the Israel Defense Forces initiates and supports educational, social, cultural and recreational programs and facilities in an effort to ease the burden that the Israel Defense Forces' soldiers and their families carry on behalf of the Jewish community worldwide.
Friends of the Israel Defense Forces sponsors an array of programs and construction projects to improve the well-being of Israel Defense Forces' soldiers both in their day-to-day routine and after their military service.
IMPACT! Scholarship Program
The IMPACT! Scholarship Program grants full academic scholarships to former combat soldiers who come from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds. The students receive full tuition towards an academic degree and give back to their communities with an annual 130 community service hours. IMPACT! students have completed more than 3 million hours since 2002, making it the number one program in providing community service in Israel.
Education & Culture
Friends of the Israel Defense Forces initiates and supports various educational programs designed to broaden the soldiers' horizons, further strengthening their Jewish, Zionist, and Israeli identity. These programs include:
- Identity and Purpose Programs acknowledge that the Israel Defense Forces' soldiers confront questions of identity, purpose, and ethics on a regular basis. The IDF Education Corps and Beit Morasha, a Jerusalem-based leadership training center that specializes in Jewish studies, have developed three courses for soldiers and commanders that focus on Jewish values and identity. Since its founding in 2002, Identity and Purpose has reached over 150,000 commanders and soldiers.
- Israeli Journey takes Israel Defense Forces' soldiers on a journey throughout Israel and seeks to help soldiers better understand what they are serving to protect. At the same time, the program strengthens the sense of community within units and contributes to the individual’s personal development. In 2013, 3,320 soldiers enjoyed an educational journey throughout Israel and participated in workshops focusing on Jewish identity.
- Amir Course seeks to better integrate Ethiopian-Israeli enlistees into the army and enable them to access more challenging and influential positions in the IDF. In 2013, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces supported approximately 750 soldiers from the Ethiopian community.
- Eitan Program supplies teenagers from difficult backgrounds with tools to have a full and meaningful service and provides them with a vocation as a mode of succeeding in life thereafter. At the end of their service, the soldiers may choose out of three professional courses funded by FIDF and offered by the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry. They are then placed in a course according to availability and their own abilities. Upon completing technical and vocational training, the soldiers receive an official trade diploma, recognized by and given on behalf of the Ministry. In 2013, 110 soldiers participated in the Eitan Program and helped open doors for their future.
- Formal Education seeks to increase opportunities for soldiers to complete twelve years of formal education and receive a high school completion certificate by the end of their military service, enabling them to finish their military service with a greater chance of success in civilian life. Most civilian jobs and educational institutions in Israel require at least a high school completion certificate, making the Formal Education Program integral in giving a large number of soldiers the opportunity to finish their service on a more even footing with their peers. In 2013, 705 soldiers completed 12 years of formal education thanks to Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.
Well-being & Recuperation
FIDF works to provide for the well-being of the Israel Defense Forces' combat soldiers through a variety of programs. The Adopt a Brigade Program allows Friends of the Israel Defense Forces' communities to create an extraordinary bond with Israel Defense Forces' combat soldiers by supporting the well-being of a specific combat brigade. Brigades currently sponsored through this program include:
- Paratroopers Brigade
- Golani Brigade
- Givati Brigade
- 401 "Iron Trail" Brigade
- Golan Artillery Regiment
- Combat Intelligence Corps
- Shayetet 3 and Daburim Naval Patrol Squadrons 
The Adopt a Battalion Program also supports approximately 50 combat battalions a year. Funds are used for fun/sports days, events celebrating outstanding soldiers, celebrations of Jewish holidays, and general recreation needs. Friends of the Israel Defense Forces' SPIRIT Program gives active duty combat soldiers a much-needed break from their daily responsibilities and duties by providing each combat unit with a week of recuperation and fun. In 2013, 13,000 combat soldiers enjoyed weeks of rest and recuperation through Friends of the Israel Defense Forces' SPIRIT Program. The DIGNITY Program aims to assist the soldiers who serve on the front lines proudly, while privately they are struggling financially, worrying for their families who often count on them as providers. Critical aid provided through this program includes basic appliances and furniture, food vouchers, special grants, and holiday gift coupons that help the soldiers through difficult economic times. In 2013, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces provided over 8,000 soldiers in-need with necessities such as furniture and appliances, Special Aid, Chanukah Friendship Vouchers and Food Vouchers.
Friends of the Israel Defense Forces' Lone Soldiers Program supports soldiers who chose to leave behind their homes and families in their countries of origin to serve the State of Israel. The program provides financial assistance, flights to visit family in their countries of origin, academic scholarships, adoptive families, a 24/7 call center, Shabbat and holiday meals, social programming, grants and a Lone Soldiers Center, and guidance. In 2013, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces helped over 2,500 soldiers during their service in the Israel Defense Forces. Friends of the Israel Defense Forces has completed building two Lone Soldiers homes in Israel and is currently in the process of building a third.
The LEGACY Program supports thousands of bereaved family members, providing them with opportunities to connect with peers who have also suffered this terrible loss and helping them celebrate holidays and life-cycle events. Support includes wedding gifts, bereaved sibling workshops, Rosh Hashanah gifts, relaxing vacations, and Bar and Bat Mitzvah summer camps in the United States. In 2013, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces brought 78 Bar and Bat Mitzvah children on a trip to the U.S., presented Rosh Hashana gifts to 5,200 widows, hosted about 750 widows at rest and recreation centers in Israel and funded workshops for 300 bereaved siblings.
Friends of the Israel Defense Forces' Wounded Veterans Programs aim to fulfill the well-being needs and provide recreational activities for veterans suffering from a severe wound, injury, or trauma. The STRIDES Program helps Israel Defense Forces' wounded veterans discover their strength by providing special prostheses for athletic activities, giving them the means to live life without limitation. The program also brings together a group of wounded veterans who, with the help of their new prostheses, partake in running, bike riding and other challenging activities together. In 2013, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces sponsored the cost of sports prostheses and athletic training for nine Israel Defense Forces' amputees.
Friends of the Israel Defense Forces builds, refurbishes, and maintains recreation and sports centers, cultural and educational facilities, synagogues, memorial rooms, auditoriums, and "soldiers' homes" for soldiers throughout Israel. These facilities, ranging from individual structures to grand well-being complexes, create an environment in which soldiers can relax, stay in shape, read a book or watch a movie, commemorate and celebrate special days, and enjoy the company of fellow soldiers. In 2013, fourteen well-being facilities and infirmaries were constructed by Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, eleven additional projects have been under construction, and nine more are being designed.
In 2013, a new home for Lone Soldiers in Israel was opened in Ramat Gan with a special ceremony marking the completion of the $5 million project launched by Friends of the Israel Defense Forces and headed by Elias and Lila Kalimian and family of Great Neck, New York.
Missions to Israel
Friends of the Israel Defense Forces organizes several yearly missions to Israel in which delegates interact directly with the beneficiaries of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces' support and meet with high-level Israeli government representatives.
- FIDF National Leadership Mission to Israel takes place annually in November. In 2014, this delegation included 160 delegates with VIP events such as meetings with Israel's newly elected President, Reuven Rivlin, and the Israel Defense Forces' Chief of the General Staff, Benny Gantz, as well as a briefing by Israel’s senior official on Arab Affairs, Avi Melamed.
- FIDF Delegation to Poland and Israel: From Holocaust to Independence takes place annually in April. The delegates begin the trip in Poland with visits to sites such as the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps and then fly to Israel on an Israeli Air Force plane. The Israel portion of the trip includes meetings with Israel's leaders and ceremonies commemorating Israel's Memorial Day and Independence Day.
- FIDF National Young Leadership Mission to Israel takes place annually in the summer. The eleven-day trip traces the path of an Israel Defense Forces' soldier from the soldier's first day at the military induction center (Bakum) to the daily routine of different soldiers' positions at training bases around the country and unit posts on the borders.
Friends of the Israel Defense Forces Mitzvah Projects allow Bar and Bat Mitzvah children to contribute to Israeli soldiers by supporting the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces program of their choice through making phone calls, starting an online campaign, sending emails, or hosting events.
Friends of the Israel Defense Forces' Planned Giving allows donors to realize their philanthropic goals while simultaneously securing their financial future and the future welfare of Israel's soldiers. Planned giving options include gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts, bequests, endowments and other planned gifts.
In addition to its national headquarters in New York and its office in Israel, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces' fifteen chapters and regions include the following:
- Las Vegas
- Greater Miami
- Midwest Region
- New England
- Palm Beach/Broward
- Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey
- Southeast Region
- Tri-State Region
- Washington, D.C.
- Western Region
Friends of the Israel Defense Forces collects tax-deductible donations through a variety of fundraising efforts, including community events, online activity, concerts, missions to Israel, and small-scale parlor meetings. Many high-level Israeli and American officials and cultural icons have spoken and participated at Friends of the Israel Defense Forces' gala dinners, including:
- Israel Defense Forces' Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Benjamin (Benny) Gantz 
- Former Minister of Defense Ehud Barak 
- Former Israel Defense Forces' Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen.Gabi Ashkenazi 
- Former Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon 
- Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu 
- Israeli President Reuven Rivlin 
- Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg
- Former Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon
- Actor Jason Alexander
- Music producer David Foster
- Actress-singer Barbra Streisand
- Haim Saban
- Benny Shabtai
- Simon Cowell
- Lionel Richie
- Macy Gray
- A. J. McLean
- Michael Dell
- Steve Tisch
- Sheldon Adelson
- Maurice and Paul Marciano
- Larry Ellison
- Monica Crowley
- Pamela Anderson
- Sylvester Stallone
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Chris Tucker
- Avi Arad
- Ben Silverman
- Alan Horn
- Barry Meyer
- Vivi Nevo
- Spencer Hawes
Israel Defense Forces' soldiers and commanders as well as wounded veterans bereaved family members of fallen soldiers also take part in Friends of the Israel Defense Forces events.
In the fall of 2014, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces' Western Region raised a record of more than $33 million in Beverly Hills, California. Other recent Friends of the Israel Defense Forces galas took place in Chicago ($2 million raised); Long Island, New York ($1.4 million raised); Michigan ($1 million raised); Boston ($800,000 raised at the gala and $4.1 million raised by the region this year); Northern New Jersey ($600,000 raised at the gala and $3 million raised by the region this year); Philadelphia; Ohio; San Francisco; San Diego; Baltimore; and Scarsdale, New York
- "Form 990: Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax". Friends of the Israel Defense Forces. Guidestar. December 31, 2013.
- "Our Board & Staff". Friends of the Israel Defense Forces. Accessed December 11, 2015.
- http://www.fidf.org/document.doc?id=11 (Accessed 2014-11-10)
- http://www.fidf.org/page.aspx?pid=273 (Accessed 2014-11-20)
- http://www.fidf.org/page.aspx?pid=274 (Accessed 2014-11-20)
- http://fidf.org/page.aspx?pid=275 (Accessed 2014-11-20)
- http://fidf.org/page.aspx?pid=557 (Accessed 2014-11-20)
- http://fidf.org/page.aspx?pid=741 (Accessed 2014-11-20)
- "Adopt a Brigade - Wellbeing - What We Do - Friends of the Israel Defense Forces".
- "Spirit Program - Wellbeing - What We Do - Friends of the Israel Defense Forces".
- "Dignity - Wellbeing - What We Do - Friends of the Israel Defense Forces".
- "Lone Soldiers - What We Do - Friends of the Israel Defense Forces".
- "Legacy - Bereaved - What We Do - Friends of the Israel Defense Forces".
- "Sports and Recreation - Wounded Soldiers - What We Do - Friends of the Israel Defense Forces".
- "Construction Projects".
- JTA. "The Jewish Press » » American Friends of IDF Open up New Home for Lone Soldiers". The Jewish Press.
- "160 FIDF leaders from across the U.S. will visit Israel".
- "Travel to Israel - Get Involved - Friends of the Israel Defense Forces".
- "Mitzvah Project - Get Involved - Friends of the Israel Defense Forces".
- "Planned Giving - Get Involved - Friends of the Israel Defense Forces".
- "WATCH: IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Benjamin (Benny) Gantz, thanks FIDF supporters".
- "National NY Gala Dinner 2011 - New York - NY / Tri-State - FIDF Chapters - Friends of the Israel Defense Forces".
- "FIDF Annual Dinner at the Hilton Chicago".
- "Gala - NY / Tri-State - FIDF Chapters - Friends of the Israel Defense Forces".
- "שלושים שנות תמיכה" [Thirty Years of Support]. YNet (in Hebrew). 20 March 2011.
- Clemmie Moodie (Nov 14, 2013). "Simon Cowell donates £100,000 to Israeli soldiers to please pregnant girlfriend Lauren Silverman". Retrieved 23 July 2014.
- Ryan Torok. "Moving and shaking: FIDF Gala, Texas Hold'em Poker Classic, Our House and more". JewishJournal.com. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
- Tina Daunt. "Haim Saban Raises $34M to Support Israeli Defense Forces". HollywoodReporter.com. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
- "Amid instability in Israel, FIDF galas across U.S. raise funds for soldiers' wellbeing". JNS.org.