Seeking to expand its reach to the Steel City, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) brought its message of aiding Israeli soldiers and veterans to a 30-strong group in Squirrel Hill last week. Packing the living room of Linda and James Joshowitz’s home, they heard from Tzvia Wexler, executive director of the FIDF’s Pennsylvania and South New Jersey chapter, and Major Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir, the organization’s national executive director, neither of whom had been to Pittsburgh before.
“For the last four years, I have been hearing how warm, friendly and caring this community is,” said Wexler. “And with this warm community, [we’re] hoping to build supporters.”
While pledge cards were offered, Wexler maintained that the meeting’s primary purpose was to “let the community know what we’re doing.”
They shared FIDF’s message via speeches and videos. Stacie Stufflebeam, who has two sons currently serving as lone soldiers, welcomed those gathered and introduced Wexler.
During her brief remarks, Wexler addressed FIDF’s origins and efforts. She noted that at its inception four years ago, her chapter possessed 200 members. Since then, membership has increased to 12,000. This growth has enabled the chapter to support 100 lone soldiers — soldier immigrants to Israel whose families remain abroad — sponsor a summer camp for children of bereaved families, help wounded soldiers and donate a Torah to an IDF base.
Lynn and Steve Berman, whose daughter is a lone soldier, explained that FIDF paid for their daughter to return home to Pittsburgh last August.
According to Wexler, “FIDF provides every lone soldier with a flight home, anywhere in the world.”
“There’s nothing better than having that trip home,” said Lynn Berman.
Following Wexler’s remarks, Klifi-Amir humorously described his new supporting role after three decades of IDF service.
“I decided to take the position with FIDF not to change my title from major general to major shnorrer,” he assured the audience. Instead, he accepted the position for two reasons: One, he was inspired by the “passion, love and support” exhibited by lay leaders for the IDF, he said, and two, because he recognized the necessity of Israel’s military.
“I know firsthand that without the IDF Israel can’t exist,” explained the retired general. “If Israel can’t exist then Jews all over the world can’t live like they do, safely.”
Following short videos about FIDF and Israel’s recent Operation Protective Edge against Hamas targets in Gaza, attendees heard from Daniel Farber, principal at HLC Equity and co-founder of the Israel Legacy Trust, a philanthropic fund that provides funding to Israel-related nonprofits. Farber served in the IDF and helped establish FIDF’s regional chapter.
As part of its push to increase support in Pittsburgh, FIDF hopes to attract younger members. Wexler explained that cultivating budding adults is key.
“Getting them involved is one of the best things,” said Wexler. “They will be our future leaders. The more they’re involved, the more they understand Israel.”
Adam Reinherz can be reached at email@example.com.