A “lone soldier” is exactly what the term implies

It’s a soldier — a man or a woman — who is serving in the Israeli Defense Forces and has no family living in Israel, either literally or metaphorically. (Lone soldiers include those whose families do not or cannot support them.) The Lone Soldier organization was established to help these soldiers acclimate to life in the army. It helps provide housing, nourishment, moral support, financial aid, and a different type of family — a family made up of other soldiers in the same situation.

And then there is Nefesh B’Nefesh, the organization that has been helping families make aliyah — the move to Israel — in the most stress-free way possible. By helping new immigrants find jobs and housing. Helping them enroll in an ulpan program, where they learn to speak Hebrew. Helping them navigate the system in Israel even before their Hebrew becomes more fluent.

So it makes perfect sense that the Nefesh B’Nefesh Lone Soldiers program, in cooperation with Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, had been established to help those young men and women who choose to serve.

And because there are more than 3,000 lone soldiers who have made aliyah, there also are many parents and families of lone soldiers who can benefit from support.

On March 12, at the Bergenfield home of Tzippy and David Giller, who are the parents of a lone soldier, the Nefesh B’Nefesh Lone Soldier program invites all parents of current and future lone soldiers for a special opportunity to hear about the program.

The evening will not be a fundraiser, its organizers stress. Instead, it will be an informative session where parents can ask questions and learn about what their children will face, if they haven’t gone through it already.

Yael Katsman, Nefesh B’Nefesh’s communications director, explained why the group organized the meeting. “This is an evening tailored for parents of lone soldiers currently serving in the IDF, or those who are planning to enlist in the future,” she said. “Advisers from our lone soldier program will be offering general as well as practical information for these parents on dealing with children serving in the army.”

Having children in the army can be very difficult and emotional, and that can even be more true when those children are so far away. That’s why, Ms. Katsman said, “In addition, we will be enabling parents to create a support network through this special forum where they will have the opportunity to connect with like-minded parents who are experiencing similar feelings and experiences. Together can share their thoughts and encouragement with one another.”

The evening will include a presentation, light refreshments, and networking opportunities. “We are expecting between 30 to 50 parents to attend,” Ms. Katsman said. The NBN Lone Soldier Program has several events in different areas in the state during the year. “We never want the parents to feel they can’t reach out and ask questions,” she added.

Dassah Kestenbaum, who used to live in Teaneck, is the proud mother of a former lone soldier who was a member of the Golani unit, and a lone soldier who is serving in the Bardelas unit. “I became involved while trying to get some medical help for our daughter Hanna Bee, who is serving in the coed combat unit, Bardelas,” Ms. Kestenbaum said. “I reached out to the lone soldier program and connected both with Noya Govrin, the director of the program, and Yoel Goldberg a former lone soldier who now is the advisor for the program. After helping with Hanna Bee they asked if I would like to help publicize the event for the New York/New Jersey area. I was immediately taken with this, recognizing the invaluable service and resources of the Lone Soldier/Nefesh B’Nefesh/Friends of the Israel Defense Forces program.”

As a parent of two lone soldiers, Ms. Kestenbaum knows firsthand about many of the issues that might arise. Those issues range from the seemingly trivial to highly serious, she said. “And of course everything is heightened because your child is so far away. And the snatched phone conversations, whether monosyllabic or tearful and exhausted or noncommittal, speaks volumes to parents.’”

Ms. Kestenbaum felt it imperative to get involved and to “spread the word to as many parents as possible so they can learn firsthand how the LS program is a fundamental and crucial resource both for us and our children,” she said. “Furthermore if we understand the workings of the program we will also be more adept at guiding our children positively to get the help they might need.”

Ms. Kestenbaum reached out to other local lone soldiers’ parents to for help with the evening One of the people she asked was a friend, Sallie Levi, who shares an apartment with Ms. Kestenbaum’s daughter and whose own daughter is a lone soldier. Ms. Levi did want to help, “so we shared the load of trying to reach as many community websites as possible as well as reaching out to schools and shuls in the New York/New Jersey area. And as people RSVP-d I enlisted their help in further advertising within their communities too!”

A parent’s job is never done, especially when her child is defending Israel.

For more information and to register for the program, email Ms. Kestenbaum at dassahdk@gmail.com