Twenty five years ago ... I was a lone soldier in the Israeli Air Force. I had left my family behind and moved to Israel. I loved the army, I loved service. But it was tough, and the support I received from programs that are supported by our Federation were critical.
These programs for lone soldiers are still there, and in many ways much stronger. Through partners like the Jewish Agency for Israel, we help with mentoring, counseling, preparing for civilian life, and much more. It makes me particularly proud because of who I was. But it makes me even prouder because of the statement it makes. That we care about Israel. That we care about its soldiers. And ... that we love and care for the soldiers who leave their families and move to Israel to support its defense. Especially those from GMW.
Recently I had the privilege to sit with parents of lone soldiers from our community. There are over twenty lone soldiers from GMW serving in the IDF. Our Jewish Family Services has set up a free support group for parents of lone soldiers in the IDF - if you're a parent of a lone soldier in the IDF you can get more information from their group liaison Lee Dagger or by phone at 973-765-9050. If you need a safe space to share experiences, get ideas and find support, this would be a great place to start.
Sitting with the group, I heard from many of the parents the pride they felt, their challenges and their hopes.
But I also saw the strength and values of our community. Our federation is rooted in Israel through our partnerships, our peoplehood programs, missions and more.
I don't know what the parents will decide to do as a group. But I hope we can find ways to help them and their sons and daughters. I hope we can help them fan the tiny inner sparks of possibility.
Golda Meir once said, "Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement."