Over $33 million was raised at the annual Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Western Region Gala last week, breaking all records at the event where more than 1,200 supporters from the United States and Israel gathered to support the brave men and women of the IDF.
Those in attendance included respected leaders and widely-known figures from the Hollywood, business, tech, sports and political communities. FIDF National Board Member and major supporter, Haim Saban, and his wife, Cheryl, served as chairs of the star-studded Gala that took place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA.
Notable donations made at the event included $9 million from Larry Ellison, co‐founder and Chairman of Oracle Corporation; $5 million from Sheldon and Miriam Adelson; $5.2 million from brothers Maurice and Paul Marciano of Guess Jeans; $3.6 million from Cheryl and Haim Saban; $2 million from Steve Tisch, Chairman and Executive Vice President of the New York Giants; $1 million from Leo David, founder of the Western Region of the FIDF; and $1.6 million from The Helmsley Charitable Trust. In addition, first-time attendees and donors Michael and Susan Dell gave $1.8 million to fund IMPACT! educational scholarship programs. These generous gifts demonstrate the overwhelming support for the FIDF.
“It is incredibly touching to see how advocacy for the FIDF has grown in Los Angeles,” said Haim Saban. “The caliber of Gala attendees from Hollywood, tech, business and other walks of life – especially a large contingent of people without ties to Israel or Judaism – ultimately speaks to their admiration for the heroic men and women of the IDF and the incredible work that the FIDF does to support them. Tonight’s Gala has become an event that the Los Angeles community looks forward to each year as a chance to honor the soldiers who defend the State of Israel.”
Mr. Saban continued, “On behalf of the FIDF, I am grateful to our donors, sponsors and supporters, whose generosity enables us to keep changing lives for those upholding the freedoms of the Jewish community worldwide.”
The evening began with a cocktail reception, followed by dinner and a program emceed by bestselling author and political analyst, Monica Crowley, and featured unforgettable performances by David Foster and Friends and The Canadian Tenors. Among the many participants at the Gala were former Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Barbra Streisand, Sylvester Stallone, Chris Tucker, Pamela Anderson, Kathy Ireland, Joanna Krupa, Avi Arad, Founder of Arad Productions Inc. and Founder and former CEO of Marvel Studios, and his wife Joyce, Avi Lerner, Co-‐Chairman of NuImage, and Ben Silverman, Founder and CEO of Electus, and his wife Jennifer Cuoco.
“This event is always one of the most inspiring and emotional evenings of the year,” said Barbra Streisand. “The soldiers of the IDF deserve our utmost respect and gratitude for all that they sacrifice to protect not only Israel, but the Jewish population at large.”
“In my mind, there is no greater honor than supporting some of the bravest people in the world, and I thank FIDF for providing us with this opportunity year-after‐year to celebrate and support these soldiers,” said Larry Ellison. “These men and women come together with indefatigable purpose, to defend Israel and strive to co-exist in peace.”
Now in its 8th year chaired by the Sabans, the Gala has become one of the must-attend events in Los Angeles, delivering increased resources for the FIDF and additional care for people that need and deserve its support. The funds raised at the Gala will go towards programs that address the educational, social, cultural, and economic needs of the IDF soldiers, as well as the families of soldiers fallen in defense of the State of Israel.
The FIDF national and local leadership present at the event included Nily Falic, FIDF National Chairman, Tony Rubin, FIDF Western Region President, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-‐Amir, FIDF National Executive Director, Alan E. Scholnick, FIDF Chief Executive Officer, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon, FIDF National Director and CEO Emeritus, Leo David, FIDF Western Region Founder and Chairman, and his wife Ruth and Miri Nash, Western Region Executive Director.
One of the most memorable moments of the night was hearing the story of fallen IDF soldier 2nd Lt. Hadar Z"L. His twin brother, 1st Lt. T., and 1st Lt. Eitan recalled their courageous efforts to save Hadar during Operation Protective Edge. The audience was profoundly touched by Eitan’s heroism and T.’s bravery in facing the loss of his brother. The program also highlighted the Heroes to Heroes program, which connects Israeli and American military heroes. Technical Sergeant Greg Grutter of the U.S. Marine Core recalled his trip to Israel and how it changed his life by introducing him to IDF veteran Zvika Comay who, having been through similar experiences as Grutter, has become a close friend of his and the two support each other as they navigate life after the military. Everyone in the room was delightfully surprised – especially Grutter – when Comay came out onto the stage and the two embraced.