This year, the 1300 guests who attended the FIDF’s National NY Gala Dinner raised over $25 million. Among the very generous donations was $9.25 million dollars pledged by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) and $500,000 from the Iranian American Jewish Federation (IAJF). An American astronaut, Col. Paul Lockhart, delighted the audience by pledging $1,000. The event was chaired by Mr. Benny Shabtai, his 15th year of doing so. Author and nationally syndicated radio host Dr. Monica Crowley once again served as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies.
Below is a poem dedicated in memory of the chayalim of the IDF whose lives were stolen from them, when they still had so much living to do.
I stand by your grave, so suddenly your new home, Your “address” engraved on cold, granite stone, Your permanent residence is under the ground, In a place that is dark, devoid of all sound.
Abruptly cut off from the music and the light, You were denied the future that was your birthright, What you would have accomplished will never be known, Your potential is buried and will never be sown.
But you will still live on.
You will live through my body, my mind, my heart, Intertwined with my soul, you will never depart, You will be part of my moments, my actions, my now, My comrade, my brother, this I do vow.
My eyes will be your eyes, you will hear through my ears, Experiencing my joys, as well as my fears. The sights and the sounds and the smell of the air, I will absorb and drink in and with you share.
As I walk on the beach, the sun warming my face, You will bask in the heat, far from your cold place, And as a rainbow of flowers greet my eyes in the park, You will be dazzled by the colors – far from the dark.
And as I sit with our friends at an outdoor café, Eating and drinking – as we do every day, You will be part of our gathering, enjoying food and drink, For my thoughts will connect us, my feelings -our link.
When I step from my chuppah, my kallah at my side, You will always be a part of us, never ever cast aside, For through me you will live, our spirits as one, Until the day will come when my own life is done.
And when I sit with my child, the one with your name, You will be there with us as we set up our game, And as we sing at the table, the Shabbat candles aglow, Through our joined voices, your spirit will flow.
And if it is my mazal that I grow old, You will commiserate with me as I complain of the cold, And groan at my slowness as I shuffle by, For as long as I live – you will never die.
You will live through my body, my mind, my heart,
For the rest of my life, we will never be apart,
For you will exist within me – in my today, in my now.
Dear friend, brother, comrade, this I do vow.