One of the many ways the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) supports families who have suffered the loss of a loved one during military service is to host a LEGACY Summer Camp program for B’Nai Mitzvah children or siblings of fallen soldiers. Every year, 150 of these Israeli teens are invited to attend summer camp throughout the United States, offering the opportunity to bond with peers who have experienced similar loss.
Last month, 21 children (ages 12 to 13) in the LEGACY program had the opportunity to visit the North Shore while experiencing a two-week summer at JCC Camp Chi in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.
The visiting Israeli teens—all of whom have lost a family member serving in the IDF— bonded and spent two weeks camping with American peers and forming lifelong friendships. They participated in classic American camp activities such as swimming, archery, rock climbing, and arts and crafts, as well as more familiar traditions like Israeli dancing and Jewish learning.
As part of the LEGACY experience, FIDF supporters in the Chicago area hosted the Israeli teens at their homes over their first Shabbat (Sabbath) there. Among the hosts were Debbie and Ron Sirt, and Anne and David Elovic of Skokie; Karen and Shai Lothan, and Kim and Adi Mor of Highland Park; and Sarah and Stuart Miller of Glencoe.
“For the past 10 years Morrie and I have warmly opened our home and hearts to Israel’s FIDF LEGACY children, and this year was no exception,” says Lori Komisar, who hosted a pool party with FIDF National Board Member Morris Silverman at their Winnetka home. “Their smiling faces, their joyful laughter … helping give these youngsters a respite from their daily Israeli lives and routine is our special treat each year! We hope that we can continue to be active participants in the LEGACY Program for many years to come. Their presence is our present.”
She adds that bringing them here to make lifelong friends, meet the community, and share in the “uniquely American experience of summer camp” is a wonderful way to help them heal from their tremendous loss.
Seven counselors who had experienced similar tragedies accompanied the children to help provide comfort and guidance.
FIDF was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors to offer educational, cultural, recreational, and social programs that provide hope, purpose, and life-changing support for the soldiers who protect Israel and Jews worldwide. The FIDF LEGACY program supports thousands of widows, orphans, siblings, and other family members of fallen IDF soldiers through a variety of recreational activities, financial support, and lifecycle celebrations. The LEGACY Summer Camp program fully covers all travel and related expenses for each of the children who participate.
For more information about this and related programs, visit fidf.org.