Friends of the IDF Director Pulling in His Own Big Bucks

Retired military major general 'finds the vision' behind fundraising for the IDF in America – and a generous salary as well.

Last week, at the glamorous Waldorf-Astoria hotel in Manhattan, the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces held its annual gala dinner. In a photograph from the event, the FIDF’s national director, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon is smiling beside donors and wounded soldiers flown in from Israel to encourage guests to open their wallets. Gershon should be pleased: according to various reports, about $27 million was raised that evening. 

It's not clear whether the enthusiastic donors would be happy to know that their donations also fund the cost of Gershon’s impressive salary and benefits package.

In 2011, that cost was $482,000, which combines his annual salary ($263,000 a year or about $22,000 a month – more than the vice president of the United States, for example); a bonus of $61,000; reimbursement for his apartment rental, which is worth more than $10,000 a month, and other benefits. In 2010, the cost of his employment was even higher: $516,000, of which $242,000 was salary and $78,000 was a bonus. In 2012, the cost of his employment reached a peak of $546,000.

Gershon, the former commander of the Home Front Command, joined the FIDF more than four years ago. 

“The first time I was offered the position, I felt I didn’t want to take it because it was schnorring, going to people and asking them for money,” he told Globes in an interview last week. From the salary numbers reported here, one might understand why things look differently to him today — or, as he described it during the interview, “I think I found the vision behind the job.”

The statistics that reached Haaretz also show that for years, until August 2011, the FIDF had employed the Mahan & Nash PR firm at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Miri Nash, a professional fundraiser who now serves as executive director for the FIDF’s western region, was a partner in the firm.

Nash did not respond to Haaretz’s queries. The FIDF’s legal adviser said that the FIDF did not employ Nash directly, and that her appointment as executive director for the western region was part of the services that her firm provided. 

“The company stopped providing services at the end of August 2011 and Nash entered the position of executive director (through the organization, not through the PR firm) in September 2011,” he added. 

Regarding Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon, the legal adviser confirmed the figures, saying, “Gershon’s salary was determined by the executive committee, which believes that the salary level is similar to those of other non-governmental organizations in the United States.”

David Bachar
Jeff Ellis