Friends of the Israel Defense Forces and members of the Mount Freedom Jewish Center joined in a Zoom meeting on November 1 to meet the synagogue’s first FIDF IMPACT! scholarship student. The Mount Freedom Jewish Center, a modern Orthodox synagogue in Morris County, is the first New Jersey synagogue to sponsor an IDF soldier’s education through that program.
The FIDF IMPACT! Program offers four-year scholarships to former IDF combat soldiers from disadvantaged families. The one-of-a-kind program also provides funds to cover soldiers’ living expenses while they study and gives them the unique benefit of direct contact with their FIDF sponsors.
Since the program was founded in 2002, FIDF has sponsored students from 66 countries. More than 92 percent of IMPACT! recipients graduate, compared to the Israeli national average graduation rate of 70 to 81 percent. For the academic year 2019-2020, FIDF granted 4,566 IMPACT! scholarships, sponsoring students at more than 80 institutions throughout Israel.
MFJC synagogue member Linda Cahn was instrumental in soliciting the congregation. Ms. Cahn also sponsors an FIDF IMPACT! Student individually. Both the synagogue and Ms. Cahn’s IMPACT! scholarship recipients were on the Zoom meeting.
MFJC’s IMPACT! scholarship recipient, who joined the call, is Staff Sgt. (Res.) Jonny, who served as a soldier and commander in an elite IDF unit. (The FIDF declines to provide soldiers’ last name.) Jonny took part in Operation Brother’s Keeper and was on the team that found the missing teenagers. He also was in Operation Protective Edge; his friends and teammates were injured and killed in front of him. Now, he is a second-year law student at Ono Academic College.
Sgt. Maj. (Res.) Maayan, whom Ms. Cahn supported, was a combat soldier and combat paramedic in the Nachal Brigade. She was stationed on the Syrian border for half a year, where she cared for wounded Syrians at the border. She took part in Operation Protective Edge as a combat paramedic and entered the Gaza Strip, where she aided the wounded. She is a fourth-year medical student at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
The congregants and IMPACT! students had not met before the meeting.
Cpl. Jessica from Englewood, who now is an active Lone Soldier, also joined the Zoom meeting and provided the congregants with insights into life in the IDF. She was drafted to the IDF in January, after doing a gap year program in Jerusalem. After five months of training, she became a shooting instructor in the Givati Brigade, where she is now.
The synagogue’s rabbi, Menashe East, also spoke at the meeting, and Howard Gases, FIDF’s New Jersey director, moderated.
“I am so glad that this meaningful event was able to take place,” Mr. Gases said. “We at FIDF hope this is the first of many such partnerships with local synagogues to provide hope, purpose, and life-changing support for Israel’s soldiers.”