Group fundraises for orphans of IDF soldiers
TORONTO — An upcoming fundraiser in Toronto for an organization called Israel Defence Forces Widows and Orphans (IDFWO), will help fund a three-week vacation for 45 Israeli children who have suffered the loss of a parent who died serving the State of Israel.
IDFWO is a non-profit association that provides social, emotional and financial support to 8,000 widows and orphans of Israel’s fallen soldiers.
Some of the programs offered by the organization include education scholarships for orphans, a special event honouring IDF orphans enlisting in the army, medical assistance, and financial aid.
IDFWO also organizes a bar and bat mitzvah program that includes a visit with Israeli President Shimon Peres, a ceremony at the Kotel in Jerusalem and a reception attended by the Minister of Defense and the Chief of Staff.
But perhaps the biggest undertaking is the free vacation that IDFWO children are treated to, during which they spend two weeks at Camp Chi in the Chicago area, and a week travelling along North America’s east coast.
Last year was the first time the group included Toronto in its itinerary, and IDFWO volunteer Daniel Tuksar said that after receiving such a warm welcome, a new group of 45 kids and 10 supervisors will travel to Toronto this summer, too.
The trip is free for the participants, and although some of its funding comes from the Israeli government, IDFWO mostly relies on donations from outside sources in the Diaspora.
Enter Toronto residents Stella and Peter Ekstein, who will host a fundraiser in their home on June 20.
Brig.-Gen (Res.) Eden Attias, Israel’s Ministry of Defence attaché to Canada; Hadas Wittenberg Silberstein, deputy consul general of Israel in Toronto, and IDFWO chairperson Nava Shoham-Solan will attend the event and address the guests.
Peter Ekstein, a Jewish community leader, said that after meeting Shoham-Solan when she was here with the IDFWO kids in 2011, he was eager to lend a hand to further the cause.
“I don’t have a role with the organization. I’m just very involved in the community, and I have a very strong affinity to Israel and the IDF. I’m involved with the Association of the Soldiers of Israel and a number of projects in Israel. I have a number of good friends in the IDF and very good friends who have sons in the IDF,” Ekstein said.
“Soldiers are on a lot of people’s radar screens, but not many people think about their widows or surviving children. When I met with Nava, I realized this was something worth supporting.”
He said he’s expecting more that 50 people at his home next week to raise funds for what he considers an important cause.
“As part of a personal philosophy, I believe we are only able to live the lives we live here as Jews and walk the streets with our heads held high because of the State of Israel. Without the IDF, there is no State of Israel, and that is why it is incumbent upon us to support the IDF,” Ekstein said.
Tuksar said the trip, which is meant to give the children a break from reality and let them meet other kids who have also lost a parent, will begin July 12 when the kids head to camp in Illinois for two weeks. On July 26, the group will travel to New York City, then spend the weekend in Connecticut before arriving in Toronto on July 30.
He said volunteers, most of whom are members of Beit Avraham Yoseph Synagogue of Toronto, will host the group and organize fun activities such as a bowling night at the Bathurst Bowlerama, a day at Canada’s Wonderland, a tour of Niagara Falls and an afternoon at Debbie and Warren Kimel’s family cottage.
For more information, contact Tuksar at Daniel@idfwo.org.