More than 1,100 prominent lay leaders and FIDF supporters from across Michigan gathered for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Michigan Gala Dinner honoring Israel’s brave soldiers and Spencer M. Partrich, a philanthropist and co-owner of Lautrec Ltd., a Farmington Hills based real estate management and development firm. The gala raised more than $1.5million for well-being and educational programs for the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) – including sponsorship for more than 50 new FIDF IMPACT! scholarships for Israeli combat veterans.

Attending the gala, one of the local Jewish community’s largest events, were wounded Israeli war hero Capt. Ziv Shilon, who completed the Berlin Marathon last month – almost three years after losing his arm in a Hamas terror attack near the Gaza Strip security fence – and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Gunnery Sgt. (Ret.) Edward Schrank, whose life was saved when he was diagnosed with a potentially terminal brain tumor during treatment for a head wound he sustained in the line of duty.

Addressing the crowd via video, Netanyahu commended FIDF,

“For honoring a very special individual, my close friend and a committed, dedicated Jew, Spencer M. Partrich.”

Netanyahu added: “The Middle East is going through an unprecedented level of turmoil. A tide of militant Islam is sweeping across our region and states that have existed for almost a century are imploding before our eyes – Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya – they don’t exist anymore. Even if we put the nuclear issue aside, Iran is arming terrorists at our borders and expanding its terrorist network worldwide. During these volatile times, keeping Israel safe and strong is more important than ever and the key to that is a strong IDF. Friends of the IDF are providing Israel’s young men and women in uniform with the support they need and I thank all of you in Detroit for supporting these soldiers.”

Ambassador of Israel to the United States, Ron Dermer was slated to give a keynote speech, but was called away at the last minute for a meeting in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prepare him for his visit this week to Washington, D.C.

Co-chairing the gala were Myrna Partrich, Andrea and Joel Brown, and Samantha and Ross Partrich. Presiding as the dinner’s master of ceremonies was comedian, author and former IDF combat soldier Joel Chasnoff. A Chicago native, Chasnoff volunteered to serve in the IDF’s Armored Corps with a tour of duty in South Lebanon, later writing about his experience in “The 188th Cry baby Brigade.”“

The real honor belongs to the brave men and women of the IDF,” said Spencer M. Partrich. “The threats we face are more profound than ever and it is these soldiers who put their lives in harm's way every day to protect and defend the State of Israel – and Jews everywhere. It is paramount that we, in turn, give back to them.”

Other distinguished guests included Consul General of Israel in New York Ido Aharoni; FIDF IMPACT! scholarship recipient Staff Sgt. (Res.) Elior, a former paratrooper who participated in one of the first rescue missions in northern Gaza during Operation Cast Lead; IDF Col. Dany Moshyov; FIDF Michigan Gala Host Co-Chairs Shari and Alon Kaufman and Lisa and Gary Shiffman; FIDF National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir; FIDF Midwest Region Executive Director Tamir Oppenheim; and FIDF Michigan Director of Development Paula Lebowitz.