Lack of dental care for the elderly in Israel is actually a very dangerous situation. Often, having a tooth or gum infection is the turning point that leads to their death. They experience too much mouth pain to eat nutritious foods, and as a result, they lose weight, get sick, and become very frail. Thankfully, The Fellowship’s dental program for the elderly and Holocaust survivors is changing this story.
We help people like Edna:
Edna, 87, recently received dental assistance from The Fellowship, enabling her to obtain dentures. “I could not eat. I was in constant pain, and it became unbearable,” she says.
Born in Belarus, Edna recalls the quiet childhood she had before WWII. “Life was ordinary. My father was in the army and so we moved from time to time. As a girl I did not know of the horrors that were brewing in Germany which would soon destroy they life I had.”
Edna would go to sleepaway camp each year. She looked forward to the experience, meeting new friends, seeing new places, and enjoying the activities. And it was during summer break at sleepaway camp when the war broke out.
“This was before cell phones and emails, and so I had no way of getting in touch with my parents,” Edna says. “As soon as war broke, the camp staff disappeared, most probably to save their own families.”
Edna’s family was hours away. She had no way to get home, nor did she know if it was safe to travel to her town. After befriending a Gentile boy at camp, Edna ran to his grandmother’s house which was not too far away.
Edna was 10 years old, and she was smart enough to keep her Jewish identity a secret. No one knew she was Jewish – not her friend from camp and not his grandmother. “There was constant talk about the Jews, very negative talk. I had to always hide my displeasure with such talk and even join in,” Edna recalls.
Edna remembers the German pro-Nazi neighbor who lived across the street, and how he paraded around town in a Nazi uniform, helping the SS identify where Jews were hiding. She spoke about the hunger, the fear, and the loneliness she felt as a little girl hiding and fighting to survive without her family.
When the war ended, Edna returned to her hometown where eventually she was reunited with her parents who also miraculously survived.
“When I returned, everything was destroyed – the houses, the synagogues, the community centers were all in ruin.”
Edna worked hard to put the past behind her and focus on the future. She went back to school and became a nurse. She married and had children, establishing a life in Belarus. Yet the calling to come to Israel never stopped penetrating her heart. “I needed to be in a country where my Jewish identity is celebrated and not washed away like a gross stain on a beautiful dress,” she explains.
In 1990 Edna made aliyah (immigrated to Israel). She has been living in the Holy Land ever since, and she makes the best out of what little she has.
“I am used to living in poverty. I have lived this way my whole life,” she says. “But when my dental problems began, I felt overwhelmed with pain and despair. I felt as though I could no longer live this way.”
For two years, Edna could not eat any food besides puree and soft oatmeal. She needed help, and thank God, The Fellowship was there to help her. “The dentures I received with The Fellowship’s assistance have changed my life. I feel like a person again. I can eat. I no longer live in pain, and when I smile, I feel no shame. I have no words to express how grateful I am for what The Fellowship has given me.”