Celebrating 70 Years of Heroes and Hope

by | Sep 17, 2018 | What’s Happening

FIDF and the IMPACT! Scholarship Program

FIDF Virginia Gala: Thursday, November 29, Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront

For many Jews around the world, Israel remains central to their identity, inspiring the hopes and dreams of the Jewish people. Every single day, the brave men and women of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) risk their lives to protect those hopes and dreams. Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) is devoted to supporting these defenders of Israel with educational and wellbeing programs and facilities. Since 1981, FDIF has played an important role in ensuring that IDF soldiers are cared for while carrying out their crucial tasks.

This year, in honor of Israel’s 70th year of independence, FIDF is hosting its first-ever Virginia Gala. A celebration of heroes and hope, it will be an opportunity to interact with and hear incredible stories from IDF soldiers.

FIDF cares for Israel’s soldiers through its six pillars of support: education, financial relief, construction projects, fallen and wounded soldiers, Adopt a Brigade, and Lone Soldiers—those who leave their native countries to join the IDF and serve with no immediate family in Israel.

The flagship FIDF education program is the IMPACT! Scholarship Program, which grants full, four-year academic scholarships to IDF combat veterans of modest means. Through this program, FIDF helps guarantee that Israel’s soldiers continue to grow as educated citizens and leaders.

Virginia has many families who support FIDF’s IMPACT! Scholarship Program, including Avraham and Patricia Ashkenazi. The couple sponsors scholarships for several students, including for Roi Azarzar, who is studying engineering at the Technion in Israel.

“When my wife and I learned about IMPACT!, we realized how important it is and we knew that we had to help the soldiers get an education,” says Ashkenazi. “This scholarship makes higher education possible for Israel’s best and finest.”

For the 2017–2018 academic year, FIDF granted 4,365 IMPACT! scholarships to IDF combat veterans who could not afford the cost of higher education, sponsoring students at more than 80 institutions throughout Israel. This program boasts an impressive 98.5% graduation rate, with 86% of the graduates currently employed.

When asked what it felt like to receive the scholarship, Azarzar says, “I was so incredibly happy and thankful—it felt like a huge weight had been lifted and I knew that I would be able to really focus on my studies and successfully finish my degree.”

IMPACT! students volunteer in the community for 130 hours each year of their studies, helping 20 different nonprofit organizations. Since its inception in 2002, IMPACT! students have volunteered more than five million hours, making it the top scholarship program in providing community service in Israel.

“I volunteer at The Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Survivors in Israel and I work with Shlomo, whose wife recently passed away,” says Azarzar. “At the time I met him, he was really lonely. At first, it was difficult to form a connection because he was really sad, but slowly he began to open up and now we have a great relationship. Someone helped me, and it feels good to be able to help someone else.”

So far, more than 8,000 IMPACT! graduates have entered the Israeli workforce, becoming engineers, doctors, lawyers, architects, and accountants, among other advanced degrees. The 2017–2018 class is comprised of students from more than 22 different countries of origin and almost 300 of them are the first in their family to pursue an advanced degree.

“Creating a new generation of educated individuals is a small investment in comparison to what they will contribute to Israel,” says Ashkenazi. “A soldier can become a scientist or engineer, creating and developing the next generation of inventions and software for the benefit of Israel. But you need to give them the chance to get to that stage.”