A Dallas family is continuing to show their commitment toward investing in Israel’s future leaders — the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
When Kathi Ravkind Sebastian took on her role as the regional director of Friends of Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) in North Texas, it was no surprise that a conversation with Ike Brown would be one of her first phone calls.
Ike is president and vice chairman of NFI, a fully integrated North American supply chain solutions provider. Privately held by the Brown Family since its inception in 1932, NFI generates more than $3 billion in annual revenue and employs over 14,500 associates. Ike and his wife, Candy, are well-known in their community for their generous philanthropy. The couple reside in Dallas and have three sons, Jordan, Aaron and Zach, and two daughters-in-law, Amanda and Aila.
Ravkind Sebastian spoke with Brown about his past contributions to soldiers in the IDF — which include the funding of exercise treadmills on one of the military bases — and how that’s made a positive impact in their lives.
“Ike was planning a trip to Israel, and he wanted to visit the soldiers of the Magav Hacotel Base in Jerusalem to see how they were enjoying the treadmills he provided for them over 10 years ago,” recalls Ravkind Sebastian.
The soldiers of the base are responsible for carrying out military operations in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
“Once Ike, his wife Candy — along with their family — make a commitment, they don’t just walk away. It has been a blessing to be the bridge that connects such a wonderful family to FIDF Projects,” said Ravkind Sebastian.
Even as Ike and Candy’s planned trip to Israel was canceled and they were not able to make their scheduled visit to the base, they remained committed in their support of the soldiers.
A few months after that initial phone call, the Brown family agreed to make another generous donation toward refurbishing a gym used by hundreds of soldiers from the Golan Regional Brigade serving at the Arar Military Base. The brigade is responsible for securing the Golan Heights and Israel’s border with Syria and Lebanon, with emphasis on security in the Mount Hermon region and the border with Jordan.
Once construction began, access to the bases became limited due to COVID-19 protocols.
“What was supposed to be a three-month project was completed almost a year later,” said Candy Brown. “The delay was frustrating, but Ike and I recognized the challenging nature of military service, especially during COVID. We were glad that we could provide the soldiers respite in such a concrete and tangible way.”
Shortly after the gym renovation was completed, the Brown family took part in a virtual visit of the Arar Base with Steve Weil, FIDF CEO, and Major General (Res.) Nadav Padan, FIDF national director and former head of IDF Central Command.
The family was so impressed with the virtual visit and the outcome of the project, that six months later they decided to participate in the funding of another project called Project Overcome.
Project Overcome is an initiative launched by the IDF Education and Youth Corps to help soldiers who are experiencing personal challenges and difficulties and provide them with the necessary tools to thrive and successfully complete their military service while empowering their unit as a whole.
Part of the project includes specialized training for IDF commanders to provide sensitivity and support to soldiers of all ethnic and religious backgrounds.
Project facilitators anticipate that after completing the training, commanders will gain a deeper understanding of the needs of their soldiers and create a more cohesive unit which may ultimately lead to a more unified Israeli society.
Eighty percent of the soldiers enrolled in Project Overcome complete the full term of their military service according to program organizers. With these newly developed life skills, soldiers are able to attain a higher level of self-confidence and gain a strong work ethic. Soldiers also report feeling better prepared for a successful IDF service as well as future opportunities after their service.
The newfound skills will promote self-awareness and ultimately allow these soldiers to enrich their communities, strengthening the future of the Jewish state.
“When Kat approached our family about Project Overcome and we had a chance to fully understand its implications and objectives, it was an easy decision for us to help fund this initiative,” says Ike. “The ability to give young, troubled Israelis a pathway to join the IDF and defend their country, we thought would be a meaningful contribution.”
The Brown family have contributed generously to Israel for decades.
“We have always wanted to get involved with philanthropic giving that would be a fabric in our life,” states Candy Brown. “Our family understands that today’s soldiers create tomorrow’s Israel. Doing what we can to bolster their well-being is not only our responsibility but is our honor.”
Weil says that the Browns “represent a family united in an extraordinary expression of giving and solidarity.”
“On behalf of the young men and women who are giving three years of their lives to the Jewish people, we at the FIDF family can’t thank Ike, Candy, Jordan, Aaron, Zach, Amanda and Aila enough for being their friend, enabling them to have happiness and meaning in their life,” says Weil.
To learn more about how you can support the well-being of the IDF soldiers, contact Janine Reutter at Janine.firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Submitted by FIDF