FRIENDS OF IDFMillionaires Battle
To Give Top Dollar
Story and Photos by Tim Boxer ON’T try to top Haim Saban. The media-television mogul, whose fortune of $3.4 billion ranked 102nd on last year’s Forbes 400 richest people in America, pledged a million bucks at the Friends of Israel Defense Forces annual fundraiser at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.
That seemed like a paltry sum to businessman Leroy Schecter. He rose to the occasion and it cost him a pretty penny.
"My wife Shoshana and I are big supporters of the lone soldiers and we pledge $5.5 million," Schecter announced with great pride.
The couple basked in a tsunami of applause that swelled from the 1,400 assembled dinner guests.
Saban, on the video screen from his mansion in Beverly Hills, easily met the challenge. "I will match you $5.5 million – plus one dollar."
Not to be outdone, Schecter, standing tall and defiant, kicked in an additional million bucks.
"So be it," Saban concluded with a sly smile on his face. "It’s $6.5 million – plus one dollar." You can’t beat a stubborn mule, or an equally stubborn billionaire.
"Amazing!" said dinner chairman Benny Shabtai, president of Raymond Weil. "This charity is recession-proof."
When the pandemonium subsided, radio/TV personality Monica Crowley, serving her fifth year as emcee of the dinner, announced that FIDF raised a total of $26.5 million for the recreational welfare of Israel’s soldiers.
On a somber note, Natalie Bellachen, a 19-year-old corporal in the IDF, paid tribute to a fallen soldier – her brother. When the Lebanon war broke out Capt. Gilad Bellachen left his accounting classes at Hebrew University to join his buddies in combat.
"Gilad decided he couldn’t stay in Jerusalem while his country was under attack," Natalie said, tears streaming down her cheeks. "His unit was ordered to take out a missile launcher in a village in Lebanon. He was struck down on the battlefield."