Los Angeles, CA June 12, 2012
In a beautiful garden setting in Encino, at the home of Andrea and Isaac Cohen, thirty-two young men and women, their families and close friends gathered together in celebration and to say farewell.
Farewell, because these young people are part of a group called Garin Tzabar and they have chosen to enlist in the Israeli army - the IDF.
Many of them are born in America to Israeli parents, but some kids, such as Alexi Rosenfeld made the decision to enlist purely because he is a true Zionist. “I can’t think of anything more selfless and rewarding than to serve my Jewish homeland and continue to fight for the State of Israel and a country I call my real home,” said Alexi proudly as his mother, Jackie Sharpe, chair of the event
stood by her son’s side.
More than 170 people attended the event. A “star-studded lineup” of the Jewish community shared personal stories and touching messages to the group of new recruits, including Michal Waisburd from the Israel Ministry of Defense, Simon Etehad, VP and Board member of Friends of the IDF, Shawn Evenhain, Chair of the ILC, Andrew Cushnir, Executive Vice President - Chief Programing Officer of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Although Rabbi David Wolpe could not attend in person, he recorded a video message which was shared. The Tzofim Caravan, appearing all over the US, also performed, ending the event with a beautiful rendition of Hatikva.
Orit Mizner, director of the Southwest region for Friends of Israel Scouts takes her job very seriously. “From the moment I interview and accept one of these kids into the Garin Tzabar program I invest in them everything possible to help them make the right decision for themselves and to realize a dream they have inside them to be part of something bigger than each one of them,” she said.
“Each one of these kids is like my own and we will be connected as a result forever. This is a huge personal step when most of their friends are thinking about college and who to share a dorm room with,” adds Orit.
On August 13th, an EL AL charter flight bound for Tel Aviv, starting in Los Angeles and picking up passengers in New York, will fly 150 “new” soldiers home.
The Los Angeles Garin Tzabar 2012 will make their new home at kibbutz Nir Yitzhak in the Negev. They begin with three months ulpan and getting to know their surroundings and then many will be drafted in October or November.
Jackie Sharpe is spearheading a new support group for the families of Garin Tzabar and will soon be launching a website and weekly blog.