American Students Cut Their Teeth on a Good Cause

In addition to funding dental care of about a dozen survivors of terror a year, the fund also hopes to recruit Israeli dentists a who would offer their services at a reduced fee to terror victims.

After realizing that dental care is not included in most Israelis' health care plans, three American students teamed up with a nonprofit focusing on social action initiatives in Israel to help terror victims who don't have dental insurance and cannot afford treatment. Last week, the students and Atzum launched the Jewish Tooth Fairy Fund, which seeks to provide a full range of dental services to survivors of terror attacks.

"Individuals who are in the middle of multiple operations or long recoveries as a result of a tragic terror attack do not receive dental care throughout their operations and long recoveries where their teeth need critical care," said Dena Rapoport, one of the students who had the idea for the fund. "More often than not these individuals who are already undergoing so much suffering cannot afford dental care for themselves or for their families."

"A major problem in Israel is the unaffordable dental care, especially for those individuals and their families who continue to suffer physically and psychologically from terror attacks," added the Cincinnatian, who is currently pursuing a master's degree in art history at George Washington University. "Our idea to become tooth fairies and also inspire others to do the same is a fairly simple concept: providing aid and hope for those who are in desperate need of things like braces and root canals. We've just launched the project in the U.S. and have been reaching out to local and national Jewish organizations who may have a stake in supporting this important and worthy cause."

In addition to actually funding the dental care of about a dozen survivors of terror a year - including routine dental treatments and endodontic, periodontic and prosthodontic services - the fund also hopes to recruit Israeli dentists and dental suppliers who would offer their services at a reduced fee to terror victims and their families, Atzum said in a statement.

"Due to the severity of their injuries, survivors of terror frequently suffer from acute dental issues that demand immediate and extensive treatment," said Cleveland-native Rabbi Levi Lauer, Atzum's founding executive director. "We have found that death or injury also leaves families unable to afford even the most routine dental care."

Rapoport and her friends Rachel Rudman, 24, from Michigan, and Dara Freedman-Weiss, 29, from New York were studying at Jerusalem's Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies when they started looking for volunteering opportunities. They met with Karyn London, the coordinator of Atzum's Roberta Project for Survivors of Terror, who talked to them about her work distributing funds to Israeli families affected by terrorism. "It is very inspiring to see young graduate students take on a project like this and commit themselves to seeing it through to the end," said London, a Florida native currently living in Jerusalem.

The women's goal is to raise $50,000, or NIS 190,000, "which we hope to find a sustainable way to raise each year," said Freedman-Weiss, who is currently pursuing degrees in business and Jewish professional leadership at Brandeis University. "Target donors are really anyone who can help, but ideally the most sustainable sources are dentists or dental organizations."