IN THE NEWS: JFS Facilitates Dental Assistance for Local Holocaust Survivors

Randall P. Lieberman, Staff Writer

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Aug 25, 2014

Alex Varnai, 93, of Delray Beach, like many Holocaust survivors, needed help arranging for basic dental work he had to have done.

But, thanks to a new program, Varnai was able to get his teeth cleaned for free.

The new program is called Project DASH, short for Dental Assistance for Survivors of the Holocaust. It started in May in South Palm Beach County, as administered by Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services, an agency of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County.

"The cleaning was very, very good," Varnai said. "I never felt a thing."

Varnai's pro-bono (donated at no cost) dental work was performed by Dr. Eric Epstein, a Delray Beach dentist.

Varnai said: "That was very nice of him. JFS always helps us out."

Added Epstein: "We spent as much time speaking as I did fixing his teeth. This is a nice thing dentists can do for people who suffered so much. I lost some members of my family in the Holocaust, so this was especially important to me."

Epstein is one of five dentists who have performed pro-bono dental work for the JFS so far, including Dr. Harvey Barbag, Dr. Naved Fatmi, Dr. Steven Feit and Dr. Ronald Rubin. In total, JFS has 10 dentists on board so far.

In order to receive DASH services, a survivor has to be a regular JFS client and must meet strict financial requirements. To date, three survivors have received DASH dental services through JFS.

Susi Price is the DASH program coordinator for JFS and Dr. Fred Kohler is the dental volunteer coordinator. Kohler is a retired dentist who coordinates between Price's referrals and the participating dentists.

Said JFS president and CEO Danielle Hartman: "We have 10 dentists signed up, but we are looking for about 25 dentists to serve 25 to 50 clients. Holocaust survivors tend to have more dental needs than other people of the same age. Down the road, we would like to introduce sensitivity training for our dentists to help them meet the special needs of Holocaust survivors."

JFS started the program to follow the success Jewish Community Services of South Florida (Miami-Dade) and Jewish Family Services of Broward County were having in their respective counties. Those two agencies started DASH programs in conjunction with each other in February 2013, modeling after a similar program in Baltimore. The DASH programs in Miami-Dade and Broward follow the same rules about the survivors needing to be agency clients and financially needy.

In Miami-Dade County, Samantha Silverman is the DASH program coordinator and Dr. Norman Brooks is the dental volunteer coordinator. Miami-Dade has 17 volunteer DASH dentists and has serviced 35 clients so far.

Silverman said: "Dental care is especially necessary for Holocaust survivors because of the malnutrition they suffered in concentration camps. Our program has been incredibly successful. We do need more dentists and specialists and a lab that can provide pro bono lab work. Lab costs can run very high."

In Broward County, Patti Sinkoe is the DASH program coordinator and Dr. Steven Wander is the dental volunteer coordinator. Broward has 26 dentists signed up so far and has provided services to 48 clients.

Sinkoe said: "We are extremely passionate about our DASH program. It has provided $54,000 worth of free dental services for Holocaust survivors so far in Broward County, which has allowed us to spend that money on other important needs for Holocaust survivors. Our challenge now is to meet the needs of our Holocaust survivors who need help affording their dental care, but don't currently qualify for the DASH program."

Any dentists, lab owners, Holocaust survivors or others looking to learn more about the DASH program, should call JFS at 561-852-3333 in South Palm Beach County, the Holocaust Hotline at 305-682-8585 in Miami-Dade County and JFS of Broward at 954-370-2140.

In Northern Palm Beach County, the Ferd & Gladys Alpert Jewish Family & Children's Service does not currently have a DASH program, but plans to start one. Call the Alpert JFS at 561-684-1991.

Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services (JFS) provides help, hope and humanity through a comprehensive range of programs and services which support people of all ages and beliefs. With locations in Boca Raton and Delray Beach, JFS programs and services include food and financial assistance, senior services, career & employment services, counseling and mental health services and many volunteer opportunities. Funding is provided by private and corporate support, grants, special events and individuals who reach thousands in need each year. For more information about JFS call 561-852-3333. Learn more at www.ralesjfs.org.

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