Dentists provide free dental care for Holocaust survivors

Dentists are providing free dental care for economically vulnerable Holocaust survivors in the Valley through a program that launched locally this past November.

The Alpha Omega-Henry Schein Cares Holocaust Survivors Oral Health Program started in nine cities in 2015 and Phoenix is the 18th North American city to participate.

The program stemmed from a December 2013 call to action by then-Vice President Joe Biden, who announced a White House initiative to promote the development of public-private partnerships to support the needs of Holocaust survivors living in the United States.

Program referrals can be obtained through the network of Jewish Family and Children’s Services agencies or other identified partner organizations – the local agency is Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS). To apply, survivors should contact Kathy Rood, JFCS Jewish social services manager, to see if they are eligible. If survivors have already been approved for reparations through the Claims Conference, then they already qualify financially, Rood said.

In addition to financial need, three critical factors are used to prioritize patients for participation: elimination of pain and disease, restoration of function and lack of dental coverage.

Once the application process is complete, Rood sends the information to Dr. Irwin Feinberg, program coordinator in the Greater Phoenix area, who matches them with a dentist, based on the services needed.

Jack Dillenberg, dean of the AT Still University Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health in Mesa, in conjunction with Alpha Omega, was instrumental in bringing the program to Phoenix, Feinberg said.

The participating dentists in the Greater Phoenix area are Sharon Bader, Shalom Fialkoff, Michael Gibbons, Jeffrey Kleiman, Michael Lebowitz, Josh Mondlick and Betty Schindler. The dental school has also agreed to be a provider with this program as needed, said Feinberg, who is an associate professor at the university.

The dentists provide their services pro bono. These services include a range of dental services, from basic dental work and comprehensive oral evaluations to root canals and dentures.

Since the program’s inception, 500 patients have been treated with an estimated total value of care valued at more than $500,000, said Bernice Edelstein, program manager of the Alpha Omega International Dental Fraternity (AO), which is based in Maryland. AO is an international dental fraternity based on Jewish values, with approximately 20 active alumni members in the Greater Phoenix area, as well as student members at AT Still University Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health and the College of Dental Medicine Arizona at Midwestern University. Henry Schein, Inc. is the world’s largest provider of health care products and services to office-based dental, animal health and medical practitioners.

To apply for the program, contact Kathy Rood, 602-452-4627. To learn more about Alpha Omega, visit

This article first appeared in Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

Giving thanks for police officers


Chabad of Gilbert baked and delivered challah to Gilbert police officers. Photo courtesy of Chabad of Gilbert

As the country reels from a number of high-profile deadly encounters involving police this past month, several members of local congregations have shown appreciation for local police officers in the form of pizza, Gatorade and challah.

On July 14, volunteers of all ages from Ahavas Torah of Scottsdale attended 12 police briefings at four precincts and on July 20 met with the entire command staff at the Scottsdale Police headquarters. At these meetings, they delivered pizza, Gatorade, cards and messages of thanks. In all, they delivered 31 pizzas – 248 slices – and 176 bottles of Gatorade, according to Rabbi Ariel Shoshan, spiritual leader of Ahavas Torah and a volunteer chaplain with the Scottsdale Police Department.

“We are supremely thankful to the women and men of the Valley’s police departments for the sworn work they do daily to risk their lives to ensure the safety and security of others,” Shoshan wrote in a note to congregants. “I am proud to be associated with our own Scottsdale Police Department, and join my children and thousands of others in expressing my thanks to police officers, soldiers, veterans and firefighters each and every time our paths cross. One is not taking sides in any perceived and painful debate by being appreciative of those who run into harm’s way as they usher others away from it.  May Hashem continue to bless them with safety and success in their role to keep all people safe and prosperous.”

A total of about 80 people participated in the project, either by volunteering their time or making a financial contribution, Shoshan said. The families also toured the on-site museum.

A July 20 letter from Ahavas Torah families that was addressed to chiefs, commanders, lieutenants, sergeants, officers, aides and staff of the Scottsdale Police Department and presented at the meetings read, “Thank you for all you do every day of the year to keep our families and our community safe. We admire you for your sacrifices and courage, and we appreciate you for keeping us out of harm’s way, even as you bravely fulfill your sworn duty and run towards it. May G-d bless you and your families with Health, wellbeing and every blessing. We stand by you.”

On July 21, a Facebook post on The Scottsdale Police Department page expressed the department’s gratitude to Ahavas Torah for the “encouragement, kind words and support.”

At Chabad of Gilbert, 20 children and adults gathered at the home of Rabbi Shimi and Chavie Ash to bake challah to deliver to Gilbert police officers on July 15. The  project, coordinated by Chavie Ash, was called “Peace of Challah.” Volunteers delivered 50 challahs, along with pictures and messages of thanks from the children, to two Gilbert police stations.

Diane Faith, a board member of Congregation Beth Tefillah in Scottsdale, organized a rally  at the Phoenix Police Desert Horizon Precinct on July 11 to show support for the city’s officers and to honor the five police officers who were killed in an ambush in Dallas on July 7.

About 50 people attended the vigil over a 2-1/2 hour period, Faith said, which included the national anthem, the pledge of allegiance and a prayer led by Rabbi Pinchas Allouche of Beth Tefillah.

Faith said she was inspired to host the event because she has a family member who is an officer and knows “through him how difficult it is to see so much hatred.”

This article first appeared in the July 29, 2016 issue of Phoenix Jewish News

Flagstaff synagogue redefining itself

For the first time since it was founded in 1973, Flagstaff’s Heichal Baoranim has a full-time rabbi who lives in Flagstaff.

Rabbi Mindie Snyder moved to town in August 2015 and, with the synagogue’s leaders, is currently working on redefining the Reform congregation’s mission and identity.

“Our most immediate goal is to define who we are as a congregation,” said David Miggins, who starts his third term as temple board president this month, via email. “What is our mission? What is our vision? What are our values? What are our priorities? Once we can define these, everything will be driven by that and we can begin to develop strategic plans and programming to fit the mission and vision.” A new name for the congregation is also being considered, he noted.

The synagogue currently has about 50 family member units and the potential for 150-200, based on their estimates of the number of Jews who live in the area, Snyder said. “We have a tremendous opportunity to grow.” The area’s Jewish community includes young families and those whom she calls “timeless folks” who “are an example of really optimal aging. They come from all over the country and have these really great stories of how they ended up in Flagstaff.”

The membership also includes faculty members of Northern Arizona University – where Snyder is involved with campus ministries – and staff of the Flagstaff Medical Center, where she is an on-call chaplain. The congregation is also trying to reach out to Phoenix families who have a second home in Flagstaff.

“Our primary goal is that everyone in Northern Arizona and in Phoenix know who we are,” Miggins wrote in the email. “When you are in Flagstaff, whether it’s to ski in winter or get out of the heat in summer, members of the Phoenix Jewish community are always welcome. We need the support of the Phoenix Jewish community in order to assure that there continues to be an egalitarian, Reform option in Flagstaff.”

The other Jewish presence in the area is Chabad of Flagstaff, which was founded in 2006.

Snyder is a member of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Phoenix and is working to strengthen the connection between Flagstaff’s Jewish community and other Jewish communities around the state.

For Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, the Israel Center and the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix hosted a celebration at the Flagstaff congregation.

“It’s been a huge lift to this community to know they’re recognized by Phoenix and that they had been offered something that they’d never had before,” Snyder said. “It was a huge deal. We’re grateful to Shahar [Edry], and we’re grateful to Stuart [Wachs] for their help thus far.”

Edry is the director of the Israel Center and Wachs is the federation president and CEO.

Snyder completed her rabbinical studies at the Academy for Jewish Religion CA (AJRCA), with additional interreligious specialization at Bayan Claremont and Claremont School of Theology (CST). Her background includes over 30 years of experience in arts, health and human services. She is also an artist, expressive arts therapist, dancer, performer and poet. Her installation is being planned for the fall.

This past January, Snyder started a multi-religious (her preferred term for “interfaith”) clergy group in Flagstaff. The group doesn’t have an official name yet, but “it’s been a wonderful thing,” she said. “The clergy that are up here are some of my dearest friends ever.” They have already collaborated on various panels and are working on ideas for other collaborative efforts. She is also the rabbinic voice in a multi-religious clergy group in Kingman. The group’s name – which originated after the group started meeting for a cup of coffee is – KUPA: Kingman United Pastoral Association. KUPA is planning a program on lovingkindness on Aug. 14.

In addition to Jewish individuals and families in Flagstaff, Heichal Baoranim also draws people from the areas of Bullhead City, the Grand Canyon and Kingman.

Heichal Baoranim’s Rabbi Emeritus Nina Perlmutter, who served the congregation from 2009 to 2015, commuted from her home in Prescott. Before that, the synagogue primarily relied on student rabbis or part-time rabbis who commuted from out of town, according to Miggins.

“Because there wasn’t a full-time, boots-on-the-ground rabbi here, there wasn’t the ability to let people know that the door’s open,” Snyder said. “So I’m opening doors in different places.”

This article first appeared in the July 8, 2016 issue of Phoenix Jewish News

Ladles of Love launches to deliver kosher meals

A new initiative called Ladles of Love launches this weekend to bring volunteers together one Sunday each month to prepare and deliver kosher meals to elderly or ill homebound individuals.

Nicki Kaplan, a social worker and mom, developed the program during her two-year Valley Beit Midrash StartMeUp! fellowship, which she completed in April.

Through this initiative, volunteers will meet at the East Valley JCC once a month, beginning this Sunday, to prepare a nutritious kosher meal in the morning that will be delivered by volunteer drivers in the afternoon.

This is a partnership between Valley Beit Midrash; the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE), who is administering the program; and the East Valley JCC, who is providing the use of its kosher kitchen, equipment and utensils.

The EVJCC kitchen was kashered on May 23 and is supervised by the Greater Phoenix Vaad Hakashruth, according to Rabbi Michael Beyo, EVJCC CEO/executive director.

The partnership with Ladles of Love represents the launch of the EVJCC’s new kitchen program, called Beteavon, which is Hebrew for “Bon Appetit.” The facility’s kitchen was previously unused and after Beyo started at the EVJCC in November 2015, he was determined to put it in use for programs, events and social action projects. He had mentioned this to Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, Valley Beit Midrash president and dean, who put him in touch with Kaplan, who was working on developing Ladles of Love.

“We united forces and I think this shows the amazing opportunity that exists when organizations collaborate,” Beyo said. Other plans for the kitchen include cooking classes, camp, parties, social programs and other social action projects, he said.

Valley Beit Midrash and EVJCC are providing funds to purchase food for Ladles of Love and the EJVCC is seeking donations of unused kitchen utensils such as soup pots, cutting boards and mixing bowls for its kitchen, as well as monetary donations to be used toward the Beteavon program.

The first group of volunteers  – which for now is capped at 20 – will be from ACT (Action, Connect, Think), a BJE social action group for Jewish adults in their 20s and 30s led by Andre Ivory, Kaplan said. Future dates are July 24, Aug. 7, Sept. 11, Oct. 30, Nov. 13 and Dec. 18 and anyone middle-school age and older can participate, Kaplan said.

Kaplan said the idea of Ladles of Love is based on Project Chicken Soup, a program in Los Angeles where she volunteered as a college student. “I thought it would be something great to bring here.”574f4fff127e8.image

Volunteers provide a friendly interaction with the person receiving the meals, she said, which is a key component.

Kaplan, a member of Temple Chai, had been involved with ACT and said she approached Ivory to participate because she thought what he was trying to do with ACT played into the values of this program. For now, Ivory is assisting with the intake, answering phone calls to note medical issues, dietary restrictions and allergies. Each meal will include a meat entree, a side, soup and a dessert. Vegetarian options will also be available, Ivory said.

“The real core of what we’re providing is the ladle of soup,” Ivory said. “Those comfort foods that really make people feel at home. In some ways, it’s a call to let them know that the Jewish community really does have them on their radar, that they really do care and really want to give them access to what they need.”

The initial outreach was done through the BJE’s Passover food drive, Ivory said, with information about Ladles of Love being distributed to those who received the Passover meals. Jewish Family & Children’s Service and the Deutsch Family Shalom Center at Temple Chai helped identify some of the recipients.

“The phone conversations that I’ve had just in doing the intake has been amazing,” Ivory said. “People come to tears over the phone.”

About 50-70 people are expected to receive meals on June 5, Ivory said, with the core of recipients living in the Central Phoenix area. The goal is to serve about 150-200 people each month.

“I think Nicki has identified a real significant need,” Ivory said. “I believe in her idea. I think this is what we should be doing as a community.”

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Family launches fund for senior transportation

His experience is not unusual among seniors who are no longer able to drive, and he is one of many who may benefit from a new transportation fund for Jewish seniors that will be administered through Smile on Seniors.

Alan and Randi Jablin, along with the Friedel Family Foundation, started by Randi’s parents, Leonard and Phyllis Friedel, have established the Friedel Family Foundation Senior Transportation Fund, which offers rides to seniors through Envoy America, a company that provides ride services for seniors, picking them up at their door, assisting them to the car, if needed, and then accompanying them throughout the trip and back home again.

“Taking care of the vulnerable, particularly our seniors, is a very important Jewish value, and we have a soft spot for our elderly,” Alan Jablin told Jewish News.

This transportation fund will provide either individual or shared transportation for affiliated and unaffiliated Jewish seniors, age 65 and older, throughout the Greater Phoenix area. The initial funding covers 200 hours of rides, according to Jablin. “Our hope is that members of the community, and Jewish organizations, will see the value of this program and contribute, thereby eliminating the concern that demand will exceed supply.”

During the launch, each senior will be limited to four rides per month. “We are not limiting how the rides are used,” Jablin said. “The idea is that a senior should live as normal a life as possible.”

The cost of a ride will be $5, $10 or whatever the senior is comfortable paying and no tipping is allowed. Envoy America will handle the reservations and dispatch. The regular cost to use the service, offered throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area, is $39 per hour.

“We are thrilled to be able to participate with Smile on Seniors for this important community service,” said Andy Beran, an owner and founder of Envoy America.

Smile on Seniors, a nonprofit organization that offers a wide range of programming for seniors, is administering the fund and 100 percent of the transportation fund will be used to provide rides, said Rabbi Levi Levertov, who directs the nonprofit with his wife, Chani. The transportation fund will not benefit Smile on Seniors programming, and there are no administrative fees, he said.

“So often, seniors tell us they have no way of getting to our events,” Levertov said. “A Jewish senior who needs to go shopping, to the theater or anywhere else will now have the opportunity. They won’t have to make those worrisome choices of how they will spend their monthly budgeted income.

“Envoy America provides the peace of mind that you aren’t just in a taxi … You have a real person who cares about you helping you on your way.”

Levertov said that Smile on Seniors’ involvement is minimal and the project “has really been Randi and Alan’s vision and legwork … We are grateful and humbled that they have chosen us to partner/be involved in this milestone accomplishment for the greater Phoenix Jewish community.”

“Our sincere thanks to Rabbi Levi and Chani Levertov for their willing participation in this endeavor,” Jablin said.

A 2014 senior services study conducted by the Jewish Community Association of Greater Phoenix noted that transportation is one of the greatest needs for seniors; the other two were a referral service and identifying seniors’ socialization needs, particularly for the homebound.

Send donations for the Friedel Family Foundation Senior Transportation Fund to Smile on Seniors, 2110 E. Lincoln Drive, Phoenix 85016. To schedule a ride, contact Envoy America, 602-687-6345, and mention the transportation fund. Rides should be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance.

This article first appeared in the Feb. 12, 2016 issue of Phoenix Jewish News