Western Region Gala Raises $8.8 Million To Benefit Israel's Soldiers

On Thursday, December 9th, more than 1,100 people filled the Los Angeles Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel to honor Israel’s brave soldiers. The annual Gala, which was chaired for the fourth year by Cheryl & Haim Saban, was completely sold out by the first of December and raised an all-time record setting $8.8 million in support of a variety of programs that ease the burden and further the wellbeing of Israel’s soldiers.

Gala Co-Chairs included Roger and Beth Ailes, Adele & Beny Alagem, Joyce & Avi Arad, Itta & Irving Bauman, Lili & Jon Bosse, Les Moonves and the CBS Corporation, Megan & Peter Chernin, Lissa & Adam Chesnoff, Ruth & Leo David, Avi Lerner, Danny Dimbort, Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer & Mel Keefer, Erika Glazer, Susan Graysen, Vera & Paul Guerin, Sue & Larry Hochberg, the Israeli Leadership Council, The Jena & Michael King Foundation, The Maurice Marciano Family Foundation, Paul Marciano, Barry & Wendy Meyer Foundation, Joelle & Jack Rimokh, Linda & Tony Rubin, Fela & David Shapell, Ben Silverman & Jennifer Cuoco, the Simms/Mann Family Foundation, Susan & Eric Smidt, Laura & Casey Wasserman, Adi & Phil Werthman, David Wiener, and Ann & Mel Woods.

During his formal remarks, Gala Chair Haim Saban stated, “At the conclusion of Hanukkah, we remember how the Maccabees triumphed in the face of odds. Let’s not forget that the Jewish people overcame the Syrian-Greeks, the Roman Empire, the Spanish Inquisition, the Russian pogroms, the Holocaust. We are a resilient people, a strong people, a successful people. We are here to stay and stay forever.” Saban then initiated a swell of additional support for Israel’s soldiers when he stated, “On the way in, Cheryl said to me, ‘I think we should match what we raise tonight,’” Saban told the packed Los Angeles Ballroom of supporters. “I said, ‘You’re the boss.’” The “unprecedented sum” of $2.5 million – which, until that moment had been the highest amount raised during the Sabans’ tenure as chairs – became $5 million.

The evening’s master of ceremonies, award winning actor and comedian Jason Alexander, then prompted the crowd to follow Saban’s lead. With that, Leo David, founder and current Chairman of the FIDF Western Region, stood up and made a $1 million challenge pledge. He was then followed by Paul Guerin, FIDF Western Region President who, along with his wife Vera, immediately matched it with another $1 million. Additional announcements of support followed from major donors David Wiener and the Simms Family, a family from Nessah Synagogue, and even a student who pledged $1,000. The bidding war culminated with a combined pledge of $1.5 million by brothers Paul & Maurice Marciano bringing the total to nearly $8.8 million.

Seventeen combat soldiers representing each branch of the IDF were in attendance each of whom were individually introduced as they marched onto the stage at the very beginning of the evening’s program. Following opening remarks from FIDF Western Region President Paul Guerin, three of the soldiers – an Arrow anti-missile defense commander, an IDF doctor who served in Haiti, and a Navy Seal commander who took part in many secret operations – spoke and brought the audience to a standing ovation.

During the program, Gala Chair Haim Saban also recognized the founder of FIDF’s Western Region, Leo David, stating, “One Co-Chair deserves particular recognition. Leo David, who fought in Israel’s War of Independence, founded Friends of the IDF here on the West Coast in 1982. He serves as the Chairman of the West Coast Region and, along with his wife Ruth, have donated millions of dollars for the soldiers’ well-being…never, ever wanting any recognition for what they do for the soldiers. While Friends of the IDF only honors Israel’s soldiers and not its supporters, tonight I would like us to recognize and honor Leo David… a special individual who has been a “soldier” for Israel and the IDF for his entire life.” Leo David then received a standing ovation.

This magnificent gala continued after dinner with spectacular entertainment led by David Foster, the 16-time Grammy winning artist, who took over the microphone and piano for the musical portion of the evening. Surprisingly boisterous and funny, Foster invited American Idol runner-up Katherine McPhee to perform her rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” before introducing “the best singer in the entire world” – Andrea Bocelli – to come on stage for a 6-piece program that included hits “The Prayer” and “Time to Say Goodbye.”
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