Evanston businessman organizes aid to Israeli soldiers

Richard Sincere has traveled regularly to Israel since studying in Tel Aviv in the early ’70s, but it was one excursion in particular that left a lasting impact on the Evanston resident and businessman.

In 2006, he got up close and personal with Israeli soldiers in boot camp. The weeklong mission trip, sponsored by Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, put Sincere and 20 other Chicagoans in the shoes of soldiers, where they replicated army drills.

“That not only enlightened me, but provided great insight about who these brave young men and women are and why we have to support them,” Sincere said.

He reunited with Israeli servicemen in May during a visit to an army base in Beit Lid to start a new program for financially strapped soldiers, particularly those in the paratroopers brigade.

That initiative, called Destiny, seeks to provide soldiers with critical aid to cover basic living expenses during their military service and throughout their academic studies.

The program is administered by FIDF, which is headquartered in New York City.

Sincere said he and wife Debra began the program to help level the playing field for lower-income soldiers by ensuring they can serve fully in a prestigious unit and attend a top Israeli university if they so choose.

Because most soldiers must work to support their families during their mandatory service, they typically don’t pursue specialized divisions. Upon completing their military obligation, when they can finally pursue higher education, many simply cannot afford the cost.

“In the U.S. we are [led] by who goes to the best colleges,” Sincere explained. “You have a much easier pathway for success in Israel based on your army unit. Entrepreneurs form their companies and startups based on what military units they were in.”

The Destiny program will complement FIDF’s academic scholarships. Students complete 130 hours of community service for every year of scholarship. In addition, the Sinceres’ fund will match $2 for every $1 donated to the cause.

An inability to get ahead solely because of economic circumstances is an issue that hits close to home for Sincere.

“I was one of those financially at-risk kids,” he said.

When Sincere struggled to pay tuition during college, a professor encouraged him to apply for aid. He ended up receiving a full academic scholarship and the chance to study abroad at Tel Aviv University.

Today he leads Sincere and Co. LLC, a mutual fund marketing firm in Evanston.

Sincere said he views the Destiny fund as the starting point to carve out new futures for Israeli soldiers, regardless of income.

“I want people to follow my family’s lead,” he said. “The goal is to take this initiative and to have the community help support this and make it a bigger deal. You can really change lives.”

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