In the last year, the world has been on global shutdown due to COVID-19. Israel’s doors closed to tourists in March 2020. But now that Israel is beginning to reopen, Dr. Jeffrey Cahn of Stamford, Connecticut, has the distinction of being the first dentist in over 13 months from outside Israel to volunteer at the Dental Volunteers for Israel (DVI) Trudi Birger Dental Clinic.
Now back in the U.S., Cahn said of his April 22, 2021 arrival in Israel: “It’s great to be back. I feel comfortable volunteering at DVI with the additional protocols that have been put into place.” This is Cahn’s ninth time performing the mitzvah as a dental volunteer at the Trudi Birger Dental Clinic.
The clinic is located at 29 Mekor Chaim Street, Jerusalem. It was established in 1980 by the late Trudi Birger, who was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1927. She was a Holocaust survivor, microbiologist and dedicated humanitarian activist. Her father was devout and Orthodox. In her book “A Daughter’s Gift of Love,” she wrote, “God, I called; if I survive, I will do whatever I can to make sure that no children suffer the way I have.”
The DVI Trudi Birger Dental Clinic is the only totally free dental clinic in Israel. It offers state-of-the-art treatment from dentists like Cahn, who volunteer for periods of one to two weeks. Cahn met Birger in 1993, and suggested that his colleague Dr. Allen Helfer, a Stamford endodontist, also volunteer. When Helfer met Birger he was so touched that he told her, “Trudi, I want to help you out.”
Helfer has traveled the world giving lectures and seminars on general dentistry and endodontics. He has been involved with DVI and the Trudi Birger Dental clinic for many years, and was even volunteering with DVI during one of the intifadas.
Helfer has been honored for his volunteer service with DVI in advancing oral health care for all of the children of Jerusalem. He has contributed much time, energy and gracious leadership to ensuring that the DVI clinic in Jerusalem runs successfully. As a chairman and president of the American Friends of DVI, he led the organization to success for many years.
DVI’s Trudi Birger Clinic committed to remaining open during the pandemic to provide urgent care to Jerusalem’s most vulnerable population from all the backgrounds represented in Jerusalem, including Ethiopian, Palestinian, ultra-Orthodox, and secular Jews. DVI provides dental care, regardless of race or religion, to indigent children, youth, the elderly and survivors of the Holocaust.
DVI has also expanded to work with Atnachta, a not-for-profit shelter for the homeless in Jerusalem. It is the only clinic that provides completely free oral health care and education, for ages 4 to 26, and has treated 2,711 children in 2019. Since 2016, DVI has been providing free dentures to low-income elderly and senior citizens aged 65 and up, including Holocaust survivors, treating 154 patients in 2019. That year, DVI hosted 140 volunteers from 19 different countries.
DVI is also the only dental clinic in Israel that both receives international volunteers and serves as an external pediatric rotation for dental students.
Cahn has been in practice for 40 years. His general dental practice in Stamford provides dental care for all ages, with emphasis on treating obstructive sleep apnea and snoring using oral appliance therapy. His office is the only accredited facility of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine in the Westchester and Lower Fairfield County area.
Cahn took the time to perform his volunteer dental mitzvah because he knows the positive impact that dental access has on people’s lives. “Anyone can write a check, but it means so much more to actually come over here and do the work with my own hands. It was, as always, a rewarding experience.”
Dental Volunteers For Israel hopes that Cahn’s volunteering this year will be the beginning of a renewed enthusiasm for dental volunteers at the DVI clinic from around the world.
To reach Dr. Jeff Cahn 203-323-2882, [email protected]
Susan R. Eisenstein is a longtime Jewish educator, passionate about creating special, innovative activities for her students. She is also passionate about writing about Jewish topics and writing about Israel. Susan has two master’s degrees and a doctorate in education from Columbia University.