Paratrooper, performer featured in Feb. 19 event at Hyatt Place
By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP
Dallas’ Jewish community can support Standing Together from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19, at the Hyatt Place Dallas.
Elite Israeli Defense Force paratrooper and Standing Together Assistant Director Ari Fuld, and former IDF soldier and performer Noam Agami, are the featured guests for an evening filled with networking, schmoozing, tales of the IDF, music and support.
Photo: Ari Fuld
Standing Together Assistant Director Ari Fuld says, “This is not about providing a ‘favor’ to the soldiers, but these are all of our sons and daughters.” Fuld, a reservist who is an elite paratrooper, will be in Dallas this weekend.
“We are so excited to introduce Ari, Standing Together and Noam to the community and I promise everyone who attends is in for a very special experience,” said Dallas resident Hilary Bernhardt, who has coordinated Fuld’s visit to Dallas with Benji Gershon and Linda Leftin. It was a social media connection of her mother-in-law, on the other side of the world, that put things in motion. “It’s come together in a whirlwind as my dear sweet mother-in-law, Lynette Bernhardt, saw a post by Ari that he was coming to the States. She is a fan of his Facebook page and blog and she follows him with great passion and interest. Mind you, she’s in South Africa but she called my husband about the post and said we ‘must’ get him here. Long story short, we’re able to share this very special man, with a very special mission, with our community and I promise those who attend will have an incredible opportunity.”
Fuld, a New York native who was raised in an observant Zionist home by his parents Mary and Rabbi Yonah Fuld, also was influenced by his grandmother Esther Varga, of blessed memory. Varga, who survived being sent to five camps during World War II, made an impact that set the impetus for her grandson’s first visit to Israel for the summer when he was just 16. While he recalls vivid dreams, as a child, of himself in an IDF uniform, it was every part of that first trip that brought Israel to him like a magnet, as though he were stepping into his own dreams.
“My grandmother was 5 foot 3 inches tall, and a gentle woman, but filled with energy about Israel being our home,” said Fuld, who will share stories about his experiences in the IDF, including an incredible miracle that took place while fighting with his unit in Lebanon. “I climbed mountains I was attached to, and when we visited holy places I felt so connected, and at Har Herzl, the national cemetery, it stuck me like a knife. I needed to be here and I knew this would be my life.”
Fuld returned to Israel to study for a year after graduating high school. After a chance interview by CNN while visiting the Kotel, during which he became very emotional, he called his parents and told them he couldn’t miss the opportunity to help and protect Israel. “There was no one in Europe to protect my grandmother and the others; I needed to do that.”
Quarter-century of service
His service — now a quarter of a century — has included work as a paratrooper and now reservist. Fuld still gives his wife Miriam, whose own family made aliyah when she was 9 years old, and children Tamar, Naomi, Yakir, and Natan, a goodbye kiss and a prayer like that which he gives on Shabbat evening. Treasuring his time in the service, he says he can’t imagine the day when his service is over.
“I never want to not be beneficial to my country.”
Fuld’s dedication and career at Standing Together makes it possible for the nonprofit organization, founded in 2003 by David Landau, to donate minifridges and microwaves for hospital rooms of wounded soldiers. The group has also presented wounded soldiers with personalized bathrobes, emailed Rosh Hashanah greeting cards, and given mobile cellphone charging units, treats, pizzas, warm clothes during the winter and ice cream parties in the summer, as well as having Independence Day barbecues, Chanukah doughnut parties, challahs, Purim mishloach manot packages at army bases and checkpoints and much more.
“Ninety-six percent of all donations to the organization are used to support the soldiers,” said Fuld, who writes a blog and each week posts updates about Israel, a Friday Torah lesson and more. Standing Together minimizes costs with a predominantly volunteer staff, by e-newsletters rather than traditional mailings, and employing modern social media marketing strategies.
“The only way I would come to the company is to know that the work we do, and the money we raise, indeed supports the soldiers. I’ve been there, am still there as a reservist, and I know what it means when others show support. What it means — is everything!”
Visiting area schools
On Friday, Fuld will visit with the preschoolers at Temple Emanu-El and residents at The Legacy at Willow Bend. The community is invited Saturday morning when he will co-host the Shabbat Kulanu services at Congregation Tiferet Israel with Rabbi Meir Sabo, and at Congregation Shaare Tefilla, where he will speak after mincha services, which begin at 5:40 p.m.
The Sunday evening program is open and appropriate for guests of all ages and, while there is no charge, donations of $18 or more will secure preferred seating. All donations from the event will be used to purchase food trucks to support Standing Together’s programs that supply food, tools and gear to tens of thousands of IDF soldiers every year.
Sunday night, the program will open at 5:30 p.m. with an hour for registration, complimentary hors d’oeuvres and nonalcoholic drinks, and music by Noam Agami. Agami will then continue with a more formal concert that includes traditional Jewish and Hebrew songs, as well as those he played during his service in the IDF band. Dallas’ own Dr. Zev Shulkin will then speak about fighting the BDS movement and the importance of investing in the safety and security of Israel and its people, and, at 7 p.m., Fuld will speak about his own history and experiences in the IDF and the work of Standing Together.
“I travel around the world sharing our work, and I take what I do very personally. This is not about providing a ‘favor’ to the soldiers, but these are all of our sons and daughters,” said Fuld, the father of two whose parents and brothers Moshe, Doni, Hillel and Eytan have all since made aliyah, following his lead in returning “home.”
“Life isn’t about the clock, but about what you do with it.”
Agami, born in Israel and now a Dallas resident, performs at weddings, b’nai mitzvah celebrations, and other occasions including a concert of Israeli music last weekend at Valley View Mall.
“The work of Standing Together supports and matches how I feel about Israel and the soldiers there keeping the peace and keeping our country safe. I am proud to participate in a program for this group and I feel very connected to their message,” he said.
“It is important for all of us to support Israel in general and the IDF and its soldiers with our actions, our visits, our voice, prayers, and our donations,” said Gershon. “Helping the IDF soldiers, the men and women who keep our homeland safe — who keep our people safe — is something we must do. Sunday night will be a magnificent way to do most of that at once, and as a community.”
The Hyatt Place Dallas is located at 5229 Spring Valley Road in Dallas. For more information or to register for the event, visit DallasStandsWithTheIDF.Eventbrite.com. To follow Fuld and Standing Together online, visit StandingTogether.org and Standing Together 24/7 IDF on Facebook.