Palm Beach dentist Dr. Mitchell Josephs, struck years ago as a child by the enormity of what happened to Europe’s Jews during World War II, now offers free treatment to local survivors of the Holocaust.
“NEVER FORGET” is the mantra made ubiquitous by all those who want to ensure that the Holocaust never fades from
human memory. As survivors of that atrocity become less numerous with each passing year, though, the ranks of those who come bearing firsthand witness to it shrink inexorably.
Doing his part to keep those memories alive—and to provide the keepers of those memories with critical medical care in their later years—is Dr. Mitchell Josephs, a cosmetic, implant and general dentist in Palm Beach, Florida, who has been honored by the local Alpert Jewish Family Service, among others, for his work offering dental treatment free of charge to Holocaust survivors.
Dr. Josephs’s eureka moment came several years ago after he heard survivors give a talk at the Palm Beach Synagogue. “My rabbi and his congregation had invited many survivors to speak,” he says. The experience closed a circle first opened in Bellmore, New York, when he was a child, “seeing videos of the liberation of the camps in Hebrew school: the emaciated survivors and mass graves.”
The stories my patients tell me are heartbreaking. I hope more dentists nationwide will call Jewish Family Services and ask to do the same work I’m doing.”
Duly inspired, Dr. Josephs set out to help survivors in his South Florida community. As of late last year, he and his team had provided care, pro bono, to a dozen elderly patients: implants, extractions, dentures, veneers, crowns, bone grafts and much more, totaling some $70,000 in all.
Survivors facing financial struggles are a particular priority. “Jewish Family Service of Palm Beach County sends me patients who are below the poverty level,” he says. “The stories they tell me are heartbreaking. I hope more dentists will call Jewish Family Services [nationwide] and ask to do the same work I’m doing.”
Dr. Josephs’s patients exemplify one admirable trait that evokes awe above all: their sense of groundedness and ability to get back up in the wake of life’s extraordinary difficulties. “How resilient these people are after the horrors they went through,” he marvels. “I asked one big, strong survivor of Auschwitz, with numbers on his arm: ‘How did you make it through the camp?’ He immediately began to cry. ‘As long as the sun came up, it meant I was alive another day. This gave me hope.’ ” Hope and, nearly 80 years later, a redoubled desire to keep the flame of persistent memory kindled and lit.
For more information, please visit palmbeachdentist.com/dental-outreach-program-for-holocaust-survivors.