Magazine article Variety

Survival Insurance

Magazine article Variety

Survival Insurance

Article excerpt

A renowned philanthropist who's given millions upon millions of dollars to charitable organizations in the United States and abroad, there is one cause about which Haim Saban is especially passionate: Israel.

"As an Israeli-American I am always concerned about the well-being of Israel," says Saban. "Israel's existence rests on two pillars. Pillar one is its relationship with the United States. Pillar two is its army because if Israel didn't have the military power that it has, it would not exist. This is a country of 8 million people - 6.2 million Jews - surrounded by 300 million people, in countries with oil, who don't like them so much. So, the odds of Israel surviving is, like [former Israeli prime minister] Ehud Barak likes to say, 'a villa in the jungle.' As a concerned Israeli-American I can only help at certain levels. So what can we do? We can take care of the well- being on the soldiers."

To that end, for the past 10 years, Saban, a longtime national board member of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, has co-chaired, along with wife Cheryl, its annual FIDF Western Region Gala held at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. Founded in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces is a non-political, non-military organization that supports social, educational, and therapeutic programs for soldiers, families of fallen soldiers, and wounded veterans. Headquartered in New York City, the not-for-profit organization has 15 regional offices in the United States and Panama.

Last year's star-studded FIDF gala - celebrity guests included Robert De Niro, Larry King, and Arnold Schwarzenegger - raised a record-breaking $38 million to help Israeli soldiers and their families in need.

"I really do believe that Los Angeles has the best FIDF chapter in the country, and when we really became huge is when Haim became involved," says Miri Nash, FIDF Western Region executive director. "Before he was on the board, he was invested, he came to the galas, he gave donations, but he wasn't as involved as he has been this last decade or so. As Haim says, 'My heart is the FIDF. Once a year I go schnorring [fundraising] for money for one organization, and that organization is the FIDF.'"

Traci Szymanski has worked with Saban for the past four years overseeing the celebrity list and handling the entertainment PR for the gala. …

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