Some 700 community leaders raised over $2 million to support well-being and educational programs for the brave men and women of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Illinois Chapter Annual Dinner on Israel’s 71st Independence Day May 8.

The evening, which is one of the Chicago Jewish community’s largest events, featured keynote speaker Brig. Gen. Amir Keren, Israeli Air Attaché to the United States.

(left to right) Kasondra Cohen-Herrendorf; Event Co-Chair Hezi Levy; Brig. Gen. Amir Keren, Israeli Air Attaché to the United States; and Joshua Herrendorf receiving an award in honor of Hershel Herrendorf z"l at the FIDF Illinois Chapter Annual Dinner on May 8. Photo credit: Jeff Ellis
(left to right) Kasondra Cohen-Herrendorf; Event Co-Chair Hezi Levy; Brig. Gen. Amir Keren, Israeli Air Attaché to the United States; and Joshua Herrendorf receiving an award in honor of Hershel Herrendorf z"l at the FIDF Illinois Chapter Annual Dinner on May 8. Photo credit: Jeff Ellis

“I carried with me the love of flying, the love of my own Jewish family, the love of the amazing people of Israel, and the deep belief in the righteousness of our way,” said Keren. “I proudly stand here today as the Israeli Air Force Attaché to the USA and promise to you that the IDF is very strong. We are ready to face any enemy that threatens us.”

Local supporter, Gabi Raviv, presents award to Yonatan Winetraub at the FIDF Illinois Chapter Annual Dinner on May 8. Photo credit: Diane Smutny
Local supporter, Gabi Raviv, presents award to Yonatan Winetraub at the FIDF Illinois Chapter Annual Dinner on May 8. Photo credit: Diane Smutny

Yonatan Winetraub, co-founder of SpaceIL, an Israeli non-profit that launched the first-ever privately funded lunar mission - Beresheet, also spoke about the triumph of Beresheet’s journey and took a “selfie” with the audience that he plans to send to the moon on the next venture. Israel became only the seventh nation to orbit the moon -- an unusual feat for such a young, small country, and plans to try again to become the fourth country to land on the moon.

(center - left to right) National Treasurer and FIDF Illinois Chairman Rob Selati, Brig. Gen. Amir Keren, Israeli Air Attaché to the United States, and FIDF Illinois Chairman Emeritus Daniel J. Hyman with Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers at the FIDF Illinois Chapter Annual Dinner on May 8. Photo credit: Jeff Ellis
(center - left to right) National Treasurer and FIDF Illinois Chairman Rob Selati, Brig. Gen. Amir Keren, Israeli Air Attaché to the United States, and FIDF Illinois Chairman Emeritus Daniel J. Hyman with Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers at the FIDF Illinois Chapter Annual Dinner on May 8. Photo credit: Jeff Ellis

The event also featured active-duty IDF soldiers who shared their stories, including Sgt. Sa’ar, a lookout in the IDF Eagle Battalion of the Combat Intelligence Collection Corps who was successful in stopping seven terrorists who attempted to enter from the Syrian border; and Sgt. Gil, an FIDF IMPACT! scholarship recipient, whose scholarship was funded by the Herrendorf Family Foundation, which provides opportunities for education, awareness, and support through music, the arts, and experience. Gil is currently studying nursing at Tel Aviv University.

Maj. Y., company commander in an elite IDF unit who stopped terrorists at the Gaza border from infiltrating Israel, shared a message of hope and resilience at the dinner. Also in attendance was Maj. Hod, who was deputy commander of Battalion 101 of the IDF Givati Brigade during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

Event Co-Chair Israel Levy speaks at the FIDF Illinois Chapter Annual Dinner on May 8. Photo credit: Jeff Ellis
Event Co-Chair Israel Levy speaks at the FIDF Illinois Chapter Annual Dinner on May 8. Photo credit: Jeff Ellis

The IDF Musical Ensemble performed songs in honor of Yom HaZikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror) and Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day).

The event honored the legacy of the late Hershel Herrendorf z”l, who spent his life supporting Israel and its’ soldiers.

Hezi Levy and Israel Levy chaired the event. Honorary Chairs included Susan and Joseph Ament; Kasondra Cohen-Herrendorf and Marcus Rambold; and Suzi and Joshua Herrendorf.

“On Israel’s 71st Independence Day we had the opportunity to honor the brave heroes of the IDF who risk their lives to protect Israel and Jews around the world,” said FIDF Illinois Chapter Director Orley Moskovits Desser. “Our Annual Dinner is a chance for FIDF supporters to meet and thank the young men and women who look after the Jewish state today.”
 

(left to right) FIDF Illinois President Tomas Kane, Yonatan Winetraub, and FIDF Midwest Executive Director Tamir Oppenheim at the FIDF Illinois Chapter Annual Dinner on May 8. Photo credit: Jeff Ellis
(left to right) FIDF Illinois President Thomas Kane, Yonatan Winetraub, and FIDF Midwest Executive Director Tamir Oppenheim at the FIDF Illinois Chapter Annual Dinner on May 8. Photo credit: Jeff Ellis

Other distinguished guests at the dinner included journalist and TV host Michelle Divon, who emceed the event; Consul General of Israel to the Midwest Region Aviv Ezra, and his wife Anat; FIDF Illinois Chairman and National Treasurer Rob Selati; FIDF Illinois President Thomas Kane; FIDF Illinois Chairman Emeritus Daniel J. Hyman; and FIDF Midwest Executive Director Tamir Oppenheim.

During the event, Hyman stepped down from his position as chairman and Selati assumed the FIDF Illinois chairmanship position.