Friends of the Israel Defense Forces

Westchester/Connecticut Newsletter

March 2015


Dear Friends,


It has been an action packed month, and we are excited to share with you a recap of recent events. From an emotional evening at the National NY Gala Dinner to the IDF Orchestra Concert, our calendar has been filled with meaningful interactions with IDF soldiers that marked a powerful show of support for our community.


Thank you to all who joined our efforts.


We encourage you to read up on all our recent activities below and take a look at the many upcoming opportunities for you to get involved. I would also like to take the opportunity to welcome Ali Picheny, our new Development Associate, to the Westchester/CT team.  Her enthusiasm for our work is already making great strides in our efforts and we look forward to you meeting her.


As spring is upon us, we will all soon be sitting at the Seder table celebrating the Festival of Freedom. The IDF soldiers who stand guard over the people and the land fulfill the hopes of the millions of Jewish people across the generations who sought this freedom. To our dear soldiers - you are the ones who make sure that we, in United States, live in freedom knowing that our Jewish land will stand strong. ALWAYS.


Happy Spring and Happy Passover!

Anat Chavkin

Director of Westchester and Connecticut

Welcome Ali Picheny

Westchester/CT's New Development Associate 


I'm Ali Picheny, the new Development Associate for Westchester and Connecticut. I am really excited to be working at FIDF! 


My family has lived in Westchester for over 30 years. I attended Solomon Schechter Westchester from Kindergarten to 12th grade and my family belongs to Temple Israel Center in White Plains, NY.   I graduated from Brandeis University in May 2013 with a degree in Sociology and Near Eastern Judaic Studies. Prior to FIDF, I worked at UJA-Federation of New York in its Emerging Leaders & Philanthropists Division, where I planned fundraisers, Shabbat dinners, volunteer projects, and a Jewish learning series for young professionals.

I have had a deep love of Israel and the Jewish people for as long as I can remember. I have traveled to Israel frequently with my family, but also on organized trips with my middle school, high school, and youth group. One of my most moving experiences was visiting during the second Intifada and being warmly welcomed by people on the streets and in stores for just showing up.  


Recently, I staffed a Birthright trip, where we had 7 Israeli soldiers accompany us. It was an unforgettable opportunity to meet them and hear about their experiences serving in the IDF, and more specifically about what they could share with us about Operation Protective Edge. By working at FIDF, I am incredibly honored to be able to return just a tiny amount to these soldiers who risk their lives daily to protect the citizens of Israel, and as a result, the entire Jewish people.

I am looking forward to reaching out to you and personally meeting as many of you as I can.




Ali Picheny

Westchester/Connecticut Development Associate 

In A Soldier's Words...

The below letter was written by Noam, a female soldier who visited NY as part of the National NY Gala Dinner delegation. Noam is one of a few select women to complete the Infantry Officer's Course and currently serves as a Deputy Training Company Commander in Battalion 41 - "Lions of the Jordan".

Hey guys,


This is Noam writing to you. I met most of you over the past few days and hopefully I'll get to meet more of you during your next visit to Israel (!!).  I feel like there is still so much that hasn't been said so I'm going tell you a few things that it's important that you all know.


The FIDF National NY Gala was by far the most powerful thing I have experienced during my army service. I've been under fire and lived in a warzone and made my dream come true when I was one of two women (and 300 men) to finish the IDF Infantry Officers' Course, and it was still more powerful than any of these events.


Firstly, I want to let you know that we are all so touched by everything that FIDF does for our soldiers, even just knowing that someone halfway across the world thinks about us and looks after us. Together, we have a very important mission - making sure the Jewish people have a place to live. By being able to respond to those who make comments about us, by knowing what the IDF does and by being able to spread the word to others - you are helping the IDF meet its next challenge. You must stay connected and updated. You must know what to say when being asked about Israel and the IDF. This is your mission! And though you are not sacrificing your life for it, it's just as important as the IDF's work along the borders.


The second thing I want to tell you is a little bit about what an average soldier knows about the FIDF. You can see the FIDF logo in every corner of every base in Israel. Our soldiers know what the organization is about. You might not be aware of this but almost any IDF soldier, if not all of them, gets something from the FIDF at least once during their service. It's literally everywhere.


And last but not least, I want to thank you all again for thinking about us and caring about us and for fighting our war with us. The Gala was unbelievable - it's amazing to see how so many people work for the IDF and care for us from so far away.


On the behalf of the IDF 2015 NY gala delegation, and the Israel Defense Forces, I want to thank you so much for all the time and effort you put in so our soldiers could serve and live better.


YOU ARE OUR HEROES. We are all so touched by all of you.




FIDF National NY Gala Dinner

Raising $24 million for Israel's brave soldiers, the 2015 National NY Gala was a night to remember.  FIDF was honored to host the Head of the IDF Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Hertzi Halevi, who spoke about the current challenges facing Israel and the IDF's preparation to defend Israel against those threats.  Over 1,200 supporters attended the gala, among them an impressive delegation of Westchester/Connecticut supporters! 



As always, we were privileged to welcome IDF soldiers and commanders, ten of whom received citations for distinguished acts of bravery during Operation Protective Edge. 


Kol Hakavod to Westchester's own Rabbi Peter Weintraub, who served as the 2015 National NY Gala Dinner Chairman. Rabbi Weintraub said, "Over the dozen years that I've been involved in FIDF, I've been privileged to see how this organization makes a powerful difference in the lives of the brave men and women who defend and protect Israel - and the Jewish People. This Gala provided a wonderful, stirring opportunity for us to say thanks, and to stand proudly with them."


Peter, your passion is inspiring and your presence set the tone for the incredible success of the evening. We are so proud of your leadership as it represents the strength of our chapter. Click here to see photos from the gala.

An IDF Orchestra Community Concert 

FIDF's Westchester/CT Chapter, along with Westchester Reform Temple, hosted a Community IDF Orchestra Concert on Thursday, March 12th, bringing together over 200 supporters and honoring the brave IDF soldiers for their service. The orchestra performed an exciting mix of Israeli and Jewish songs, while the enthused crowd delighted in the music, dancing and singing throughout their performance.  Thanks to all who attended and to the orchestra for brightening our day with wonderful, inspiring music! Click here to view photos of the event.  Photo credit to Lee Peskin. 

Soldiers Visit Staples High School in Westport, CT
On March 11th, three IDF soldiers traveled to Westport, Connecticut to meet with students in the Jewish Culture Club at Staples High School. The soldiers shared their stories about being a teenager in Israeli society, as well as what it is like to be in the army. The students were intrigued to learn about the soldiers' participation in Operation Protective Edge.
Westchester Community Shabbaton

During the weekend of March 13, elite IDF officers along with members of the IDF orchestra visited Westchester for a Shabbaton at the Young Israel of Scarsdale. A special thank you to Dana and Marc Jason and Rabbi Jonathan Morgenstern for organizing the incredible weekend.


Throughout Shabbat, soldiers shared their incredible stories with congregants, students and community members. Everyone in attendance immensely enjoyed meeting and hearing the powerful stories of the soldiers and many soldiers told us it was them who left with a lasting impression from the weekend's programming.


Thank you to our wonderful host families for opening your homes and your hearts to our soldiers. Host families included: Cynthia and Andrew Blustein, Michelle and Dan Gewanter, Dana and Marc Jason, Daniel and Karen Kosowsky, Michelle and David Levine, Lisi and Michael Mandel, Rabbi Jonathan and Jordana Morgenstern, Michelle and Michael Nachmani, Ariana and David Stecker, Diane and Bill Stern, Laurent and Naomi Weisel and Linda and Jay Zucker.


Finally, thank you to the entire community for welcoming the officers and for taking the time to   show support for Israel's soldiers.

First Annual Women's Event - May 12
FIDF National Mission to Israel - November 2015

Is Your Bar/Bat Mitzvah Coming Up?

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We Want to Hear from YOU


Are you the parent, sibling, or friend of a Lone Soldier?

Do you have a personal connection to the IDF?


We want to hear from you!


While the soldiers may be on the front lines, their stories hit close to home. We would love to hear your stories, see your photos, and hear how you are connected to the brave men and women of the IDF.  Send us an e-mail to





Lone Soldiers leave their countries of origin to serve in the IDF. We provide them with support throughout their service, flights home, financial grants, and social events. Read More




The Eitan Program provides an opportunity for teenagers from difficult backgrounds exempt from enlisting to join the army. The program supplies them with tools to have a meaningful service and provides them with a vocation as a mode of succeeding in life thereafter.  Read More



Provides hard working combat units with a much needed week of rest, relaxation and bonding. These rare breaks from the battlefield allow soldiers to unwind, as well as recharge in preparation for future challenges. 

Read More



Grants former soldiers from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds who served in combat units a 4-year college scholarship at an Israeli institution. In return, the students are required to complete 120 hours of community service per year. Read more



Legacy supports thousands of bereaved families who have suffered the devastating loss of a loved-one fallen during military service and provides opportunities to connect with peers who have also suffered this terrible loss and helps them celebrate holidays and life-cycle events. Read More




The Strides Program provides recreational prosthetics for athletic activities, giving veterans the means to live life without limitation. This program focuses on leg amputees.  Read More