They come here to make life-long friends, and be embraced by the warmth of the loving, caring Chicago community.

Twenty-six children and siblings of fallen Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers visited the Chicago area last week as part of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) LEGACY program to attend an unforgettable 10-day recreation camp.

As part of the LEGACY experience, FIDF supporters hosted the 26 Israeli teens – all of whom have lost a family member who was serving in Israel’s military and are celebrating their bnei mitzvah this year – at their suburban Chicago homes last weekend before the camp began.

FIDF LEGACY campers and their American hosts take a group photo at the Winnetka, Illinois home of FIDF National Board Member Morris Silverman and Lori Komisar (Photo credit: Robin Subar Photography)
FIDF LEGACY campers and their American hosts take a group photo at the Winnetka, Illinois home of FIDF National Board Member Morris Silverman and Lori Komisar (Photo credit: Robin Subar Photography)

Now at JCC Camp Chi in Lake Delton, Wisc., the Israeli teens are bonding with each other and spending 10 days camping with American peers, forming lifelong friendships. The Israeli children are participating in American camp activities – swimming, archery, rock climbing, and arts and crafts – and in more familiar traditions like Israeli dancing and Jewish learning.

“We are ecstatic to kick off the LEGACY summer camp program for the ninth year hosting 26 Bar and Bat Mitzvah-aged siblings and children of fallen IDF soldiers with a pool and pizza party in our home,” said FIDF National Board Member Morris Silverman, who hosted the pool party at his and FIDF supporter Lori Komisar’s Winnetka home.

FIDF LEGACY campers at a pool party at the Winnetka, Illinois home of FIDF National Board Member Morris Silverman and Lori Komisar (Photo credit: Robin Subar Photography)
FIDF LEGACY campers at a pool party at the Winnetka, Illinois home of FIDF National Board Member Morris Silverman and Lori Komisar (Photo credit: Robin Subar Photography)

“Morrie and I see the difference in their faces when they arrive here, the smiles and the can-do spirits of these resilient youngsters,” Komisar said. “They come here to make life-long friends, and be embraced by the warmth of the loving, caring Chicago community.”

Nine counselors, three of whom are former LEGACY campers themselves and experienced similar tragedies, accompanied the children to help provide comfort and guidance.

FIDF LEGACY campers at JCC Camp Chi in Lake Delton, Wisc. (Photo credit: FIDF)
FIDF LEGACY campers at JCC Camp Chi in Lake Delton, Wisc. (Photo credit: FIDF)

The FIDF LEGACY program supports thousands of widows, orphans, siblings, and other family members of fallen IDF soldiers through a variety of recreational activities, financial support, and life-cycle celebrations.