On Thursday of last week, more than 200 DC Jews packed Public Bar to attend the inaugural event of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) — Young Leadership, Washington DC division. Lots of people left with FIDF hats and pins, but in case you didn’t leave with all of your questions answered, here’s a brief interview with Andrew Friedson (AF), one of the event’s co-hosts:
SR: What is FIDF Young Leadership?
AF: Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors to support the men and women who serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as well as the families of fallen soldiers. FIDF is committed to supporting and caring for IDF soldiers as a way to ease the incredible burden they carry on behalf of Israel and the global Jewish community. The Young Leadership Division (YL) of FIDF engages individuals in their 20s to 40s in the organization’s work while providing social and networking opportunities. It’s a fun and meaningful way to get involved, support Israel, and look out for IDF soldiers.
SR: Why did you just decide to open in DC?
AF: The DC area has an incredibly active, engaged and diverse Jewish community with so many young professionals who have been to Israel, befriended IDF soldiers and who are passionate about Israel and Jewish causes. Combined with the fact that Washington, DC plays such a central role in the Israel-US relationship, it was only natural to have a strong presence here in the Nation’s Capital. We’re fortunate to have the Embassy of Israel here, providing increased opportunities to interact with current and former Israeli soldiers and officials.
SR: What was your role in Thursday’s event?
AF: I was one of the hosts for the happy hour. Along with our committee — Jeremy Alexander, Netaly Masica, Alex Langer, Lee Genish, Karen Reiner, and Eric Langer — we were responsible for planning the event and inviting everyone, with the help of FIDF DC Director, Stephanie Friedman.
SR: What types of stuff will you be doing in the future?
AF: This was just the first of many more events we will be having in the future. In fact, we’re having a dinner coming up on August 6, when we’ll be joined by a female lone combat soldier who is visiting from Israel, who will share her experiences at an intimate dinner, followed by a happy hour. Stay tuned for details of these and other events by liking our FIDF-YL DC Facebook Page and feel free to email DCYL@fidf.org or call 301-960-3531 if you’re interested in joining us on August 6th!
SR: How on earth did you get over 200 people to RSVP to your event over Facebook? Are we just obsessed with Israeli soldiers? Or are the co-hosts especially popular?
AF: We’d love to take credit for just being that cool! In fact, we had more people show up than the 200+ who RSVP’ed on Facebook. But the huge turnout and success of the event was a testament to the incredible things that FIDF does, the passion in the community to look after those who look after Israel, and the start of a really special organization with a big presence here in DC. FIDF is meant to be in DC, and we are looking forward to building the organization here.
SR: How did people help the FIDF cause on Thursday night?
AF: The purpose of the event was to introduce FIDF to young professionals in DC. It was more like a grand entrance! The voluntary contributions and the percentage of proceeds from everyone’s “liquid generosity” will go directly towards FIDF’s mission: supporting educational, social, cultural, and recreational programs and facilities. Beyond that, we received messages from current and former soldiers from around the world who expressed how much it meant to them that young people in the United States recognize their sacrifice.
SR: Did you have any Israeli soldiers at the event?
AF: Yes, we sure did! Capt. Meir Rozalis actually spoke at the event and talked about what FIDF meant to him. We also had a former IDF soldier, Tomer Chutman, who was very active in the organization in Israel and now lives nearby, along with several other former and active duty soldiers.
SR: I walked away with a pin and a hat. What other schwag do you have, and how can we get it?
AF: There’s more where that came from! But you’ll have to come to the next event to see for yourself…so hope to see you on August 6th!
For more pictures, go to FIDF’s Facebook page.