The Washington, D.C., chapter of Friends of the IDF, a national organization dedicated to supporting the well-being of the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, recently adopted an Israeli navy fleet through FIDF’s new Adopt a Brigade Program. Focusing on providing financial aid for soldiers and their families, supporting lone soldiers and carrying out general well-being activities and scholarships for the soldiers, the chapter has committed to the adoption for a three-year period, allowing communities to form personal connections with their adopted brothers and sisters serving in Israel.
“In 2012, our capital project was to build a gym for the Gaza Division outpost. It was really a bricks and mortar project. This year we wanted to do something a little more touchy-feely for 2013-2015,” said Stephanie Friedman, director of Washington, D.C., chapter. “To adopt soldiers that are on the ground and to give them personal attention and have a personal connection with them is very important to us.”
Friedman explained that the D.C. chapter made the decision to adopt the nearly 2,000 soldiers in the Navy’s Shayetet 3 and Daburim Patrol Squadrons to shed some light on the often overlooked soldiers in the navy, and because the local chapter has a direct tie to the Daburim.
“When we were discussing the Adopt a Brigade Program, Phillip and Nira Berry’s [Phillip is a council member in the chapter] son Brandon was about to go into the Navy and was placed in the Daburim 914 squadron,” Friedman said. “We felt that local connection and felt that the navy isn’t always in the forefront of the news, even though they protect the coastline and gas wells and are incredibly important.”
“Everyone is familiar with the FIDF slogan, ‘Their job is to look after Israel. Ours is to look after them,’ but I’ve experienced it’s much more than a slogan, it’s really happening,” said Cpl. Brandon Berry. “It’s comforting to know that you have someone that’s vouching for you and going out of their way to help you.”
As part of the Adopt a Brigade Program, the FIDF D.C. chapter sent 535 combat soldiers to a rest-and-recreation week in June, allowing the soldiers to rest and recharge. Friedman explained that the chapter plans on spending more than three hundred thousand dollars in 2013 alone on support for the squadrons, totalling more than $1 million by the time the adoption officially ends in 2015. Additionally, the chapter will provide five $16,000 scholarships to naval soldiers who, upon completion of their service, cannot afford to go to university on their own. Hand-written postcards from local children and families are also sent to the Shayetet 3 and Daburim squadrons.
“We want the D.C. community to know that these are our soldiers and that we’re taking care of them like our own family,” said Friedman. “We don’t just want to support them, we want to become one with them. We want to help them celebrate their simchas and milestones and make the community aware that we need to say thank you to these soldiers for all that they do. Our goal is to make sure that they know they’re loved in return.”