By Michele Justic
A petite young woman begins, “I live on a ship.” The video reveals the full picture. IDF Sgt. Shachar intercepted drones heading for the Karish gas field as part of her role in the IDF Navy. Second Lieutenant Yosef, a “good ol’ American boy” who hails from Oregon and joined the IDF as a response to the rampant anti-Semitism he faced, is now a Platoon commander who stands for grueling 12-hour shifts in Jenin. Staff Sergeant Aliza tells of how her family history of Holocaust survivors and her mother’s job as a midwife led her to choose to be trained in the IDF paramedic course. She now literally brings young soldiers back from the brink of death while under fire in the Menashe brigade. FIDF helps these heroes by providing care packages, support for lone soldiers, including plane tickets to visit family , and the main focus of the evening, a “home away from home,” or in this case, a synagogue for the Home Front Command. This beautiful dedication was a gift from the Wolf family so that soldiers can pray, gain calmness in the presence of community and G-d, and may it never happen, it can serve as a venue for funerals for fallen soldiers.
On Monday, October 24, at its annual South Shore Gala, held at the Sands of Atlantic Beach and attended by close to 500 people, Friends of the IDF sought to provide a full picture of its mission and services while also sharing the extent of the impact of Cy and Florence Wolf. Both portraits are almost impossible to condense into an hour-long presentation but the notable lawyer, Ben Brafman, handled it adeptly with honesty and humor. Having real heroes on hand—from the IDF, from the Wolf-Stern-and Bryk families, and from FIDF’s leadership, Steve Weil, CEO; Pninit Cole, FIDF Long Island Director; and Long Island Chairman, Ronny Ben-Josef along with some music from the YStuds—tied it all together into a meaningful evening.
In 2021, 32,234 soldiers received a high school or higher education with assistance from FIDF. 10,787 veterans and family members were supported by FIDF’s Fallen and Wounded Program; 6,900 soldiers were helped through the Lone Soldier program; 57,696 soldiers adopted through FIDF’s Adopt-a-Unit Program; 12,673 soldiers given financial relief and 10,820 soldiers assisted with Spiritual Support. That number will grow thanks to the newly dedicated Cy and Florence Wolf synagogue for the HomeFront Command in the southeast of Tel Aviv.
“We are humbled and grateful to honor a family that has devoted itself so deeply to the safety and security of the Jewish people, said Steve Weil, CEO of FIDF. The generous dedication of a synagogue for the Homefront Command Unit, in memory of their loving husband and father, will ensure that soldiers of all backgrounds will have a place to pray and connect with one another.”
The Wolf family is known for its activism and philanthropy, Florence Wolf searched for 15 years for the perfect way to honor and commemorate her late husband, Cy, a’h. The two met as teenagers and moved to Kentucky together when Cy was part of the Kentucky Screaming Eagles in the war. Though strong and courageous, Cy stood out more for making peace in his lifetime. Florence relates, “He would bring every Jew together. He had such love for the Jewish people.” He was a respected leader in Temple Hillel in North Woodmere and brought many people seeking comfort or answers into the community. His love of Israel stood strong. It is told that he loaded ships with ammunition and supplies for the Irgun, locked the doors at Temple Hillel until he had raised $250,000 in one day for the Yom Kippur War, and more recently, donated ambulances to Magen David Adom.
It was decided that financing a synagogue for FIDF would fuse his two passions: drawing Homefront Command soldiers in for comfort and spiritual renewal as they stand ready to defend, protect, and rescue Israel at all times.
Cy and Florence’s son, Ed Wolf notes, “My father was particularly adept at understanding collaboration. Collaboration with FIDF and other Jews speaks volumes about the impact my dad had.”
Trudy Stern, Cy and Florence’s daughter, President of Norpac NY, explained that support for the FIDF was a natural complement or the political work that they do.”
Ed Wolf said, “Building a tremendous shul where the names Cy and Florence will forever be linked as a testimony to their love for each other, for Israel, and for the larger Jewish community was something that was a true honor for our family.”
The family visited in February and spoke to soldiers about the synagogue. They were told that everyone goes to pray, whether religious or not, and look for strength and courage for the next battle they’re going into. One soldier said, “I’m not religious but this is where I go before battle.” The synagogue was full for the yom tovim and has continuous visitors every day.
Steve Weil cautions that in Israel, this is the “war between the wars.” and The Homefront command will be needed more than ever and the needs of the FIDF are growing. Pninit Cole encouraged everyone to follow in the Wolf family footsteps and donate what they can for an apartment or plane tickets home for a lone soldier, a college scholarship for a veteran, special DryFit tzitzit, tefillin, or mezuzahs, a bus for a getaway, a camp scholarship for the family of a fallen soldier, and further needs.
Suri Davis, estate attorney, community organizer, and longtime Israel supporter, commented on the gala, “I learned for the first time the depth of the financial, emotional, and spiritual support FIDF provides to soldiers of the IDF. Jews around the world protected by Israel’s army show their gratitude by supporting FIDF and its efforts for the soldiers of the IDF.”
FIDF is the sole organization authorized to collect charitable donations on behalf of the soldiers of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) across the U.S. Its mission is to transform their young lives through empowering educational, financial, well-being and cultural initiatives. Every day, the soldiers of the IDF put their lives on the line to protect the Jewish homeland, and FIDF is whole heartedly committed to providing them with a better everyday life and a brighter future. Learn more or donate at FIDF.org.