WORCESTER – Around 90 people from Central Massachusetts attended a Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) – New England Region event on Wednesday, Aug. 12 held at Congregation Beth Israel in Worcester and co-sponsored by Beth Israel, Temple Emanuel Sinai and the Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts.
The three serve as “Impact Students” for the FIDF – they have completed their service and are now attending college in Israel through an FIDF program that raises funds and subsidizes the four-year education of IDF combat veterans in Israel.
“For $16,000 a donor can put a deserving combat veteran through college, which compared to the cost of college in the U.S. is a pretty good deal,” said Bruce Mendelsohn, executive director of FIDF New England. “But more than the economics, what is important is the effect it has on the life of the student, because most of these students would not otherwise be able to afford college.”
The IDF speakers in Worcester included Staff Sergeant Arthur and Sergeant Reut, both of whom are studying at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC), and Sergeant Major Golan, who is studying architecture in Israel.
Mendelsohn said that there are a few reasons why it is important for local Jewish communities to hear the stories of IDF soldiers.
“I think we’re at this point in Israel’s history and the history of democracy in the western world where we are facing many threats to our way of life and our right to exist,” he said. “One of the reasons I bring these soldiers around is because I want to reinforce two things, Israel’s right to exist and Israel’s right to defend itself. People regardless of their religion should be able to see and hear from the soldiers, the real story of their service and of Israel’s Defense Forces. The stories they sometimes get in the media are sometimes not so accurate.”