Eugene Neugebohr hasn’t stayed in any one place very long. Born in Russia in 1943, his family immigrated to Poland, then to Israel and, 50 years ago, he moved to the U.S. and now lives in Bloomfield Hills.
Neugebohr returned to Israel with his wife, Ina, to join the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) National Leadership Mission in November.

There they met Zeev Arafeli and Barak Goldberg, two of the three IDF veterans whose college educations they have sponsored through the FIDF Impact! Scholarship Program.

Neugebohr, an FIDF Michigan Chapter board member and a veteran of the IDF Armored Corps, first heard about Impact! when FIDF Midwest Executive Director Tamir Oppenheim approached him in 2007 to tell him about the organization’s scholarship program for IDF veterans from challenged socioeconomic backgrounds.

“When Tamir told me about the program, I couldn’t wait to get involved,” Neugebohr said. “The IDF made a real person out of me by teaching me the skills I needed for the future. I wanted to find a way to pay it forward and help the next generation of veterans.”

The Neugebohrs’ first Impact! student, Pavel Frailich, was, coincidentally, also a native Russian who had served in the IDF’s 7th Armored Brigade. “I felt a real and immediate connection,” Neugebohr said. “These young men and women are all combat veterans like me and have experienced many of the same hardships I did.”

Frailich said, “The scholarship gave me the amazing opportunity to study and pursue a career — and build a better life for myself. My success is thanks to Eugene.” He works at an industrial water treatment plant near Haifa.

Impact! is one of FIDF’s flagship programs. During the 2016-17 academic year, 4,121 full four-year academic scholarships have been granted so far (at $16,000 each).

“Since launching the program in 2002, the Michigan chapter has sponsored 624 full academic scholarships for IDF veterans,” said Paula Lebowitz, Michigan development director.

“The scholarship program gives you the greatest return on your philanthropic investment because you’re transforming opportunities for men and women who served Israel and the Jewish people, and they, in turn, will give back to their communities,” she said. “Recipients perform 130 hours of community service during each year of their studies.”

Neugebohr said, “When Pavel graduated in 2011, he told me there was no way he would have been able to earn his bachelor’s in biotechnology without my help.” Arafeli graduated last year with a degree in accounting and Goldberg is currently studying computer science. “Now these brave veterans — and Israel — can look forward to a brighter future.”

RYAN GREISS – Special to the Jewish News

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