Some 300 Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) supporters gathered on Thursday, Nov. 29, for the FIDF Virginia Inaugural Gala at The Hilton Oceanfront, raising more than $200K for well-being and educational programs for the brave soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Joining the Virginia Beach community to celebrate 70 years of Israeli heroes and hope were several IDF soldiers and veterans. Among the attending active-duty soldiers was one of Virginia’s own, Tidewater-native Cpl. Ilana, who, during the event, surprised her parents on stage in what was an emotional reunion.

Virginia native and Lone Soldier Ilana surprises her parents, Marcy and Michael Mostofsky, on stage during the FIDF Virginia Inaugural Gala.
Virginia native and Lone Soldier Ilana surprises her parents, Marcy and Michael Mostofsky, on stage during the FIDF Virginia Inaugural Gala.

Also featured during the program were Capt. Ron, who, during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, was responsible for using a Patriot missile to intercept for the first time a Hamas unmanned aerial vehicle shot toward Israel; and 1st Staff Sgt. Rino, an operational driver in the Rotem Battalion of the Givati Brigade, and a Lone Soldier originally from the U.S.

FIDF IMPACT! student Roi gives his beret to his IMPACT! scholarship donor Avraham Ashkenazi.
FIDF IMPACT! student Roi gives his beret to his IMPACT! scholarship donor Avraham Ashkenazi.

The inaugural gala, chaired by Emily and Joel Nied, showcased FIDF’s programs supporting Lone Soldiers – those who join the IDF with no immediate family in Israel – and the IMPACT! Scholarship Program, which grants four-year academic scholarships to combat and combat-support soldiers from challenging socioeconomic backgrounds.

(from left) Event co-chair Joel Nied; FIDF Virginia President Cookie Blitz; and event co-chair Emily Nied.
(from left) Event co-chair Joel Nied; FIDF Virginia President Cookie Blitz; and event co-chair Emily Nied.

“The FIDF’s inaugural Virginia gala was an opportunity for our Jewish and non-Jewish supporters to hear firsthand from brave IDF soldiers who directly benefit from FIDF’s programs,” said FIDF Virginia Director Alex Pomerantz. “Our local community is incredibly passionate about supporting IDF soldiers and strengthening the bond between Jews in Israel and the U.S. It’s because of this community’s enthusiastic support that we launched this first-ever FIDF gala in Virginia, and we look forward to many more to come.”

(from left) Winfred Loria and her husband, Holocaust survivor Roger Loria; FIDF National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir; and Brig. Gen. (Res.) Gila Klifi-Amir.
(from left) Winfred Loria and her husband, Holocaust survivor Roger Loria; FIDF National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir; and Brig. Gen. (Res.) Gila Klifi-Amir.

Other distinguished guests in attendance were Israel Air Attaché to the United States Brig. Gen. Amir Keren; FIDF Mid-Atlantic Chairman Dr. Gary Applebaum; FIDF Virginia President Cookie Blitz; FIDF National President Robert Cohen; FIDF National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir; Brig. Gen. (Res.) Gila Klifi-Amir; and FIDF Mid-Atlantic Executive Director Ari Dallas.