Helping Hand Coalition is dedicated to aiding Holocaust survivors in Israel and around the world; but more than that, we also have a desire to build relationships with the survivors we meet. Six years ago, The Dental Treatment Project (DTP) was born. Focusing on bringing dental aid to survivors in need, DTP began after learning that many survivors couldn’t afford to pay for the treatments they needed. Partnering with Jewish Voice International (JVI), an organization stationed in Arizona, USA, Helping Hand Coalition has helped hundreds of survivors receive financial assistance for major dental work! This would not have been possible without the dentists who volunteered their time to help put a smile back on these people’s faces, so a massive thank you to all involved in this project.
On July 24th, an event took place at the Shalom House villa in Caesarea that brought twenty Holocaust survivors, living in Or Akiva, together for an afternoon of testimony, music, and joy. All having received dental treatment through the Dental Treatment Project, the event was hosted by HHC and co-sponsored by JVI so that the survivors could develop a special relationship with those responsible for the program’s existence. With a representative from Jewish Voice International also present, it was touching to hear the survivors’ stories and see them all smiling, proud of their new teeth and dentures.
Bozena Gasiorowski welcomed our guests and thanked everyone for coming before passing the microphone to Sarah Gasiorowski, Chief Administrative Officer, and Dental Project Director. Sarah spoke about how the DTP started and what the afternoon’s event was all about. Tamar, from Jewish Voice International, also stood to share about their organization’s involvement in the project. As Tamar spoke with passion about the work JVI does, her smile lit up the room, emanating a feeling of happiness into the hearts of those listening.
Leading the musical concert, Alon Tamir along with his son, Yishai, and daughter, Lior, performed songs in Hebrew for the survivors. Alon led the vocals and played the guitar, while Lior sang backup, and Yishai played percussion. Their talents complimented each other perfectly, giving the survivors a performance filled with a mixture of haunting melodies and upbeat songs.
At the end of the Tamir family’s performance, Luke Gasiorowski, Executive Director of Helping Hand Coalition, thanked Alon and his family for their excellent performance, promising more music before the event’s end. He also exclaimed his joy at seeing familiar and new faces at the villa. Passionate about the work HHC is doing on a daily basis, Luke explained how the afternoon’s event was a testament to the project’s success and was thankful to all the people who were present.
Before inviting everyone to eat the food that was prepared by our amazing volunteers, Aviel S. walked to the front to give the audience a Food for Thought. Getting the gears in our minds turning, Aviel discussed the difference between being a Hebrew and a Jew and the meaning behind the word Judah. He also spoke about the Torah, explaining that history, geography, and archeology had proved its accuracy. Ending his short speech, Aviel opened the floor for questions and encouraged the survivors to read the Torah themselves and to see the wisdom its pages contain.
Rosa, a sweet and high-spirited survivor, asked if she could share a few words before everyone moved on to lunch. Without hesitation, Rosa went on to talk about her time in the ghetto and how she had come to Israel, before explaining why she was at the event. Barely able to eat, Rosa participated in the Dental Treatment Project, hoping to find relief. Excitedly, she shared with enthusiasm that after getting the work she’d desperately needed, she could now eat an apple with ease! Speaking on behalf of all the survivors in the room, she exclaimed their gratefulness to Helping Hand Coalition and Jewish Voice International for establishing the Dental Treatment Project, along with all the other projects that take place throughout the year.
Lunch was served in jubilation. Chatter filled the villa as people got to know one another on a deeper level. As people ate and talked, Alon and his family played more songs, elevated the mood to cloud nine. There wasn’t a person sitting alone, and when the camera came near, most asked for their picture to be taken.
Bringing the event to a close, Marina Torobarov, a Project Coordinator for HHC, once again thanked everyone for coming to the day’s event, and HHC for starting the DTP. Surprising Marina, Luke and Sarah gave her a special thanks on behalf of HHC for the work she had done with the project over the years. Close to tears, Marina shared her appreciation and was deeply touched by the gesture.
Just before the bus arrived, hand-made artwork was presented to the survivors as a gift. Crafted by Israeli artist Grace Alon, the pictures were inspired by passages found in the Torah and designed through Grace’s love of traditional Jewish art and papercutting. Each survivor had a choice between a picture of a menorah or the Aaronic blessing. The menorah piece symbolized the light that shines in the darkness, inspired by the scripture found in Isaiah 60:1-2, “Arise, shine for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you, and His glory appears over you.” Cut in blue and pale gold, this artwork was a perfect reminder of God’s promise of hope to His chosen people, and that they would shine the light of God’s glory to the world. Alexander Dietze and his family also gave small boxes filled with jams from a local kibbutz to the survivors as a sign of appreciation for their presence.
It was uplifting to see the impact and results the Dental Treatment Project has had on the lives of the survivors. Your heart swells with joy and indescribable feelings when you witness the gratitude shining in the survivors’ eyes. They thought they were forgotten, but Helping Hand Coalition has shown the survivors that through its projects and events, they have a platform to let their voices be heard and meet people from around the world who wish to befriend and care for them. HHC is determined to continue bringing aid to those who need it and look forward to meeting more survivors and making new friends at the next event.
A massive thank you to all who made today possible. Bozena, Luke, and Sarah Gasiorowski, for their planning and work within the project and organization. To Tamar and Jewish Voice International, for their participation; without Jewish Voice International, this project wouldn’t exist! Michael V., for translating the event; it wasn’t planned, but you were up for the challenge and did a fantastic job. It was also a pleasure to spend the afternoon getting to know each of the survivors that came to the afternoon’s event! Alexander Dietze and family, Lilia, Jola, Alon Tamir and family, Aviel S., and everyone else who took part in this event; we appreciate you and the work you did to make this day so unique and memorable!
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