Record $38M raised at the Western Region Gala
The sold-out gala, which has become one of Los Angeles’ premier charitable events, gathered more than 1,200 supporters from across the country to support the brave men and women of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
For the 10th year, FIDF National Board Member and major supporter Haim Saban and his wife, Cheryl, chaired the star-studded gala. Guests included prominent business, philanthropic, and political leaders and celebrated names in entertainment, fashion, sports and tech, including Dutch LLC CEO Serge Azria and his wife Florence; Managing Member of R.H.Book LLC and Chairman of Jet Support Services Inc. Robert Book, and his wife Amy; Chairman and CEO of The Kraft Group and owner of the New England Patriots Robert Kraft; GUESS Founders Maurice and Paul Marciano; and Chairman and CEO of Wasserman Media Group Casey Wasserman and his wife, movie music supervisor, Laura. Celebrity guests in attendance included Rosanna Arquette, Julie Bowen, Gerard Butler, Robert De Niro, Larry King, Joanna Krupa and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“This year marks a full decade that Cheryl and I have had the honor of chairing this fantastic event, and we are humbled by and grateful for the outpouring of support it receives year after year,” said Mr. Saban. “We are gratified to see that the FIDF’s important mission – to provide wellbeing and educational programs for the heroic men and women of the IDF – continues to resonate with the Los Angeles community.”
Presiding as the evening’s master of ceremonies was Israeli actress and model Moran Atias. The event featured special performances by David Foster & Friends, TV-stars Laura Bretan and Jordan Smith, and Jason McGee and The Choir.
The gala featured a moving speech from Master Sgt. (Res.) Allison Bressand, a Lone Soldier – one who enlists in the IDF without any immediate family in Israel. Bressand served as a squad commander in the Israel Border Police and was responsible for stopping a terror attack last year. Originally from France, she moved to Israel to fulfill her late father’s dream of returning to the Jewish homeland. Bressand’s mother, who had not seen her daughter for nearly a year, was flown into Los Angeles from France by FIDF and surprised Allison onstage in an emotional reunion.
The event also featured speeches from wounded Israeli soldiers Sgt. Ohad Benyichai, an Israeli commando who suffered a severe head wound during the infamous 2014 battle in Gaza’s Shejaiya neighborhood, and Israeli hero Master Sgt. (Res.) Omri Michaeli, who joined his special operations reserves unit immediately after returning from a trip abroad for Operation Protective Edge. During this important operation, he suffered a gunshot wound and was led to the hospital wrapped in the Israeli flag, inadvertently becoming a national symbol.
The top donation of the event was $6 million from Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, who has contributed an excess of $30 million to FIDF.
“The commitment of Israel’s soldiers to protecting their country and her citizens is truly inspiring and remarkable,” said Eckstein. “It is incumbent upon us to stand by these brave soldiers and support them in whatever way we can, so they know how deep our commitment is to their well-being and their futures.”
Other distinguished guests included FIDF Western Region Founder and Chairman Emeritus Leo David; FIDF National President Peter Weintraub; FIDF National Board Member and Western Region President Tony Rubin and his wife, Linda; FIDF National Chairman Emeritus Nily Falic; FIDF National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir; and FIDF Western Region Executive Director Miri Nash.