Over 600 prominent lay leaders and FIDF supporters from across Long Island attended the Long Island Chapter's 9th Annual IDF Appreciation Evening at Fresh Meadow Country Club in support of Israel's soldiers.

The special evening paid tribute to the men and women of the IDF and honored Rabbi Howard Stecker of Temple Israel, a tireless advocate and beacon of light, support and dedication for Israel and Jews worldwide. We were happy to have former honoree, Lana Bakhash, serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the evening's program.

 "Those of us here tonight can fulfill a promise to the soldiers of the IDF. We can fulfill the promise to support those whose sacrifices preserve Israel as a Jewish democratic state. We can fulfill the promise to ensure that their service is a bit less painful and lonely than it has to be. We can fulfill a promise to support their educational and professional training so that their lives will be more productive and meaningful during and far beyond their time of service." - Honoree Rabbi Howard Stecker

 Also in attendance were soldiers who recently returned from the frontlines of Operation Protective Edge and who truly represent the myriad faces and bravery which make up IDF. From Sgt. Tal's journey from his home in Beverly Hills to the frontlines as a Lone Soldier in the Palahan Givati, to Staff Sgt. Elle's heroic route from Australia to Gaza as the only female paramedic in her battalion. Their stories of heroism, bravery and commitment moved us and are a source of pride and inspiration to continue the important work of FIDF.

 "I don't think people can understand how grateful we were for everything. I'd like to just say thank-you. Thank-you from all the IDF soldiers who have  benefited from your amazing organization and generosity in one way or another. Even from afar, your making such a difference to the soldiers who are protecting our beautiful little country." - Staff Sgt. Elle

 While these brave soldiers thankfully returned home from the recent operation, we learned of the 66 young men who gave themselves in defense of their country. We gained insight into one such brave soldier, Sgt. Sean Carmeli Z"L, and the remarkable family he left behind as his sister Gal Garmeli bravely shared her story. We thank Gal for sharing her story and her brother's legacy with us. May his memory be a blessing. 

 "To us, nothing will ever justify this situation. No reason will ever be truly acceptable for separating Sean from us. But the love that we've received is not in any way expected. The pain that we constantly feel carries with it a beauty that I have never seen before. The goodness that has come forth form people we know and people we don't is what keeps us standing and keeps my parents from breaking." - Gal Carmeli, sister of Sgt. Sean Carmeli Z"L

 The program concluded with an address from Long Island Chapter Chair, Ronny Ben-Josef, who ignited the crowd to raising a record breaking sum for Israel's soldiers.

 "Am Israel Chai because we all saw how the people in Israel treated every soldier like their own son or daughter, going above and beyond to let them know they are not alone. Sean was a Lone Soldier, but when he died he was not alone, forty thousand people came to say goodbye. How can we show our support to Sean and his fellow soldiers? We must do our share to make sure Israel and the IDF stand strong." - Ronny Ben-Josef, Long Island Chapter Chair.

 On behalf of the heroic men and women of the IDF, board and staff of FIDF and the State of Israel, we thank you for your dedicated support of Israel's soldiers.

 Thanks to the incredible generosity of the Long Island community,  $1.4 million was raised to benefit the well-being of IDF soldiers!