South Africa native Richard Uria began his role as new chairman of the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces Ohio chapter on July 1. His term will last between two and four years.

Uria, a Beachwood resident who attends Solon Chabad in Solon, talked with the Cleveland Jewish News about his goals in his voluntary role.

He said the organization plans a mission trip to Israel in November and will celebrate “the soldiers” on Sept. 15 at Landerhaven in Mayfield Heights.

CJN: Why did you want to be chairman?

URIA: Being involved with FIDF for the past eight years, I have grown to be ever more passionate for the organization and for the education and well-being of the soldiers.

CJN: What makes you the right person for this position?

URIA: Israel and Zionism have been an incredible part of my life ever since growing up. I continuously strive and look for ways to encourage others to be involved and learn more about Israel, the FIDF and the sole purpose of making others aware of our Jewish state.

CJN: What are some skills you bring to the table?

URIA: Since becoming co-chair of Guys Night Out, we have grown our incredible committee with great community leaders as part of the success. I bring the opportunity to grow a new group of leaders dedicated to Israel and the soldiers.

CJN: What are some goals you have for the organization?

URIA: Our prior chairman, Irwin Haber, over the past four years created a platform and foundation for our brand. We have significantly increased our footprint in Northeast Ohio as well as we are making inroads into the rest of the state. Our six pillars are all critical to me to ensure the success of our chapter and I will strive to dedicate time to each pillar. The pillars are financial assistance, education, construction, lone soldiers, dignity, fallen and wounded, as well as adopt a brigade.

CJN: Have you received any advice from the past chairman?

URIA: I have an ongoing close relationship with the past chairman who continues to be an incredible resource and influencer to me. Significantly, he has also taken on chairman emeritus and will continue to build the legacy planning part of our chapter in order to secure the future.

CJN: How are you going to enact change within FIDF?

URIA: I plan to create a leadership group aligned with the pillars of our organization in order to create a structure that best accomplishes the goal of raising funds and awareness for each of the six. The leadership group will be the executive committee of the Ohio chapter.

CJN: What is your first big goal as chairman?

URIA: We have an incredible six months planned. I would say that the upcoming FIDF Ladies Night Out event is super exciting to me and my wife to be able to engage our community of ladies.

CJN: If there was one thing you would want people to know about FIDF, what is it?

URIA: Our chapter operates in such a way with minimal overhead which allows for the majority of what we raise each year to go to the soldiers. Our chapter has been leading the way with impact scholarships which goes directly to the students. The FIDF encourages direct giving to the soldiers which allows the soldiers to focus on their service of protecting Israel.

Amanda Schenk is the Violet Spvack Editorial Intern at the Cleveland Jewish News.

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