Founded in 1983, the Health and Community Service Center (HCS) provides quality dental treatment to 4,500 needy individuals monthly who cannot afford the basic cost of dental treatment. Licensed and supervised by the Ministry of Health, HCS primarily provides subsidized dental interventions to large families, new immigrants and the elderly. Our clinics also offer free dental care to needy Jerusalemites who are not included in the government basket of dental health care services, including Ethiopian teenagers and Arab children.
The Health and Community Service Center Jerusalem was established by Rabbi Bernard Moses Casper. a former Chief Rabbi of South Africa. In World War II, he was senior Chaplain to the Jewish Brigade and first Dean of Students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. While in South Africa, Rabbi Casper established a charity fund, contributions to which were directed to projects in Israel.
Especially dear to him was the Bukharan Quarter of Jerusalem, to which he devoted tremendous efforts to alleviate the impoverished conditions in the neighborhood. In response, he created an organization whose purpose was to improve the quality of life for residents of the Quarter. The various projects, which included the Samuel Bliss Eye Clinic, the Dr. Luba Slome Dental Clinic, the Menkin-Greenberg Hearing and Testing Center, the Noah Slome Dental Laboratory and the Chief Rabbi’s Free Loan Fund were all housed at the Casper-Plitnick Center of the Health and Community Service Center (HCS). HCS has expanded to serve all of Jerusalem and beyond with two state-of-the-art dental clinics. It is now celebrating its 38th year of service with quality dental treatment at its core.
The Bridging the Gap Program – Goals and Objectives
The HCS supported Bridging the Gap program, seeks to expand and reach 100 additional Arab families from East Jerusalem and other local neighborhoods who are eligible to receive free dental treatment. In addition to caring for the oral health of some of Jerusalem's neediest children,
patients and their parents benefit from the program in ways that are even more intangible, but just as vital to their well-being – enhanced self-confidence, a feeling of empathy from the clinic staff and its donors from abroad, and a small, but significant, step towards a sense of co-existence, which is fostered when families meet in the clinic waiting room. Mothers chat about their children, and children smile shyly at each other. These small – yet meaningful – encounters help Arabs and Jews rise above some of the tension and negative perceptions that are endemic to their corner of the world.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the consequences of inadequate dental care are many, including the potential loss of self-esteem that can result from broken teeth, tooth loss, or other visible problems– even in a child’s baby teeth. It can also lead to chewing problems and pain that interferes with the ability to concentrate in school, and cause serious infections.
The situation is even worse among the Arab population. Israel's Arab population (53.5 percent) lives below the poverty line. In Jerusalem, over 71 percent of Arab families and 83 percent of Arab children are classified as poor. Furthermore, the gap between their overall income and poverty levels is reaching record levels.
HCS operates two centers with a total eight dental chairs, one located in the Bukharan Quarter of Jerusalem and the second in the downtown district. A team of 14 dentists (all highly skilled, experienced, and licensed by the Israel Ministry of Health), 2 hygienists and several dental assistants treat thousands of patients each month. Of these, nearly one-third (including children, the elderly, Ethiopian immigrants, and mental health patients) receive significant subsidies.
Bridging the Gap
The Bridging the Gap program was implemented in 2009 in collaboration with the East Jerusalem branch of the Municipality’s Department of Social Services to address the growing dental problems of the city’s Arab families.
Signed, numbered vouchers are distributed by professional social workers to specific families deemed particularly needy from their assigned caseload. Eligible patients receive free comprehensive dental care, consisting of examinations, X-rays, and prescribed treatments, including the provision of fillings, crowns, root canal procedures, and pre-orthodontia. In addition, the staff instructs the children regarding good oral hygiene. Each patient is entered into the HCS database for routine check-ups.
Apart from soliciting feedback from clients, external evaluation is provided by the Israel Ministry of Health, which certifies and supervises the HCS clinics. Furthermore, the Hadassah School of Community Dentistry, and the Dental Department at the Ministry of Health monitor the clinics via periodic on-site visits.
The number of families who can benefit from Bridging the Gap is directly related to the amount of available funds secured. HCS is seeking assistance in the amount of $25,000 towards HCS’s Bridging the Gap program to provide vital dental treatment to 25 Arab families, at an average cost of $1,000 per family.
Support would enable HCS to provide an initial examination, X-rays, treatments, and dental hygienist services, and will enable needy Arab children who could not otherwise receive dental treatment - to smile, communicate and increase their individual self-esteem. Furthermore, Bridging the Gap promotes equality, tolerance and co-existence creating positive experiences between Arabs and Jews.