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Canadian Friends of DVI in the News

Toronto dentist committed to helping kids in Israel
By FRANCES KRAFT, Staff Reporter   
Thursday, 05 May 2011
TORONTO  — Toronto dentist Richard Nurgitz is an award-winning competitive amateur cyclist who has taken part in fundraising bike rides for the Canadian Cancer Society and Beit Halochem, among other organizations.

Richard Nurgitz, left, with a young patient at the DVI clinic.

He’s also a musician who plays viola with the York Region-based York Symphony Orchestra and once considered a professional career in music.

But the new chair of Canadian Dental Volunteers for Israel (DVI) says that relieving pain for young patients as a volunteer dentist at Jerusalem’s Trudi Birger Dental Clinic, where the DVI program is housed, is “probably the most rewarding experience” he has ever had.

Nurgitz – a Winnipeg native who moved to Toronto with his family at 16 and graduated in dentistry from the University of Toronto in 1973 – visited the DVI clinic for the first time eight years ago. He and his wife, Naomi, were in Israel on a Beth David B’nai Israel Beth Am Synagogue mission at the time.

On a free day, he arranged to visit the clinic, and offered to help if they could use him. He spent the day working there, and was so taken by the experience that he decided to return annually to volunteer for two to three weeks at a stretch.

On a recent trip, Nurgitz treated a young girl who needed such extensive dental work, including multiple root canals, that he didn’t think it could be completed in a timely manner by DVI volunteers.

“Her front teeth were so badly broken down that I felt unless she has teeth that look nice, how’s she going to smile?” he said. “How’s she going to feel good about herself?”

He began to investigate whether it would be possible to bring her to Toronto for an extended stay, to have the work completed here. The logistics were daunting, and he was happy that a colleague in Israel took on her case instead.

But Nurgitz is still thinking about the possibility of extending the DVI program to Toronto for similar cases. In addition to helping kids, he said, it would give local dentists who can’t travel to Israel an opportunity to help Israeli youngsters too.

Among his other ideas for DVI Canada are a charity bike ride and a dental lecture series that can double as a fundraiser and also raise awareness of the program.

DVI Canada is affiliated with the Jewish dental fraternity Alpha Omega (AO), in which Nurgitz has also been active. AO also organizes educational lectures, but is not part of DVI.

Nurgitz, who took over the chairmanship from Irv Petroff in March, said that DVI, together with AO, has raised between $50,000 and $60,000 a year for the clinic, which has an operating capital of $500,000 (US).

The budget is “pretty lean, considering they have 15 to 17 part-time employees and a pediatric dentist who’s in charge,” Nurgitz said.

A staff hygienist educates families about nutrition and oral care, while up to five dentists at a time work on patients. The dental equipment is modern and comparable to what you would find here, he added.

Volunteer dentists from more than 20 countries work at the clinic, which provides free dental care for children in the Jerusalem area whose families cannot afford treatment. The patients, who are referred by the city’s social welfare service, range in age from 5 to 18, and come from a variety of religious and ethnic backgrounds.

Last year, just over a dozen of the dentists were from Canada.

“It’s a wonderful program,” said Nurgitz. “We need to promote it more.”


Toronto dentists celebrate Canada Day in Jerusalem
Monday, 05 July 2010
Two Toronto dentists spent Canada Day this year in Jerusalem – and brought their national pride with them.

Steven Kazman and Alan Vinegar with dental assistant Michal Englander

Dr. Steven Kazman and Dr. Alan Vinegar arrived in Israel in late June 2010 to volunteer at Dental Volunteers for Israel (DVI), a free dental clinic for poor children in Jerusalem. Since 1980, DVI volunteer dentists have provided free dental care and DVI's hygienist has taught oral health education to thousands of the neediest children from each and every one of the diverse communities in East and West Jerusalem every year; this year DVI accepted a new group of 250 Ethiopian children who had just arrived in Israel, never having seen a dentist – or even a toothbrush – before in their lives .

Though it was Dr. Vinegar’s first time volunteering at DVI, he was happy to bring some donated equipment and supplies from his Toronto colleague and classmate Dr. Karen Aiken and a donation of dental materials from Patterson Dental. Dr. Vinegar found it refreshing to know that the clinic was able to provide an exemplary level of care.

“It was most pleasant working with the excellent staff, said Dr. Kazman. "An extra bonus came as our stay at the apartment, conveniently located near Jerusalem’s famous promenade, and afforded me the opportunity for early morning runs and evening strolls”.

Dr. Kazman says the apartments provided by DVI are very comfortable and centrally located; “There is something very special about being located in downtown Jerusalem, with easy access by foot, bus or taxi to all the attractions."

Just a few weeks earlier, Dr. Michael Schecter of Toronto volunteered at DVI for the third time. Michael Schechter said he enjoys mingling with people in Jerusalem and giving back at the same time. Dr. Schechter will return again, "It's one of the most comprehensive free clinics I've ever seen – and the fact that children can come here and be integrated into a program where they're taught oral hygiene; hygiene is reinforced, and they're able to get all the care they need in one building."

“A long list of dentists from our Jewish dental fraternity, Alpha Omega had sung the praises of their visits to the Trudi Birger clinic, so I seized the opportunity to make my contribution. This was my small way of assisting to better the lives of these Israeli children”, beamed Dr. Vinegar.

Dr. Vinegar noticed the stark reality that the children visiting this clinic had substantial dental needs. The Toronto chapter of Alpha Omega has taken a strong interest in helping meet DVI's needs for many years; in fact, of Alpha Omega chapters around the world and the international organization's longstanding solid friendship with DVI, the Canadian Alpha Omega support is the strongest – serving to inspire others to help more.

During the week Alpha Omega's International President, Dr. Charlene Berkman, visited DVI, and met with Dr. Vinegar. The next day – on Canada Day, Israel's Alpha Omega p[esident, Dr. David Ash came to meet with Dr. Vinegar as well, so in between treating patients, Dr. Vinegar received guests all through his first week at DVI. Needless to say, DVI staff was warmed by this new volunteer dentist with a heart of gold!

Michelle Levine, DVI's Director of International Relations, says that "The positive experience these dentists describe is also felt by our dental assistants, as well as the children and their families – truly DVI is an international family – and that's why it's so special seeing one of our dentists again – it is like reuniting with an old friend or relative."

Dr. Steven Kazman agrees, "Each time it feels like a homecoming, the patients, the staff, the administration, we are all one family, united by our common commitment to the oral welfare of Jerusalem's underprivileged children, irrespective of race, colour or religion. We treat the children of victims of terror, of battered women, of new immigrants from Ethiopia and many more." A DVI friend and volunteer since 1989; this is Dr. Kazman's ninth trip to Israel specifically for the purpose of volunteering at DVI. Years ago, DVI founder Trudi Birger, a Holocaust survivor, convinced Dr. Kazman to take personal responsibility for the x-ray room, and to be a hero for this small non-profit organization in Israel. A short time later, Dr. Kazman made a large donation to DVI for the x-ray room, which was dedicated to his parents, Morris and Rose Kazman. Recently a new immigrant from Venezuela painted murals in the x-ray room to make it more pleasant for the kids, so during the week, the clinic director, Dr. Roy Petel, and staff took the opportunity to rededicate the room to his parents.

Dr. Vinegar brought a huge stack of Canadian Pride pencils and stickers and handed them out every day to his patients and their families, which was really the icing on the cake - this June in Jerusalem has seemed like Canada Month leading up to the most magnificent Canada Day on July 1in Jerusalem – where the entire clinic celebrated the kindness and generosity of Canadians!

For more information on how you can become a volunteer or make a contribution, please contact Dr. Stan Jacobson, Treasurer of Canadian Friends of DVI at or Dental Volunteers for Israel at .