Jewish agency to honor Utahns 'healing the world'
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Mara Rabin helps Utah's refugees live healthier, more independent and dignified lives. Geoffrey Tabin brings sight to many in the developed world. And more than 20 other Jewish physicians in the state are involved in some aspect of humanitarian work.

What they all are doing is "tikkun olam," which, in Hebrew, means "healing the world."

And that is the theme of the Fifth Annual Jewish Family Service's Tribute Dinner, which will be held on Oct. 28 at the University of Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium Tower.

Tikkun olam is "one of our most important Jewish values," explains Ellen Silver, director of Utah's Jewish Family Service. "What we are doing as an agency and what they are doing as physicians embody this notion."

David Dowsett, president of the JFS board, said the agency was looking for a way to tie this event to what it does in its daily operations.

A previous tribute dinner celebrated the lives of 21 Jewish individuals in their 90s who either were born in Utah or spent the bulk of their time here.

Another dinner saluted Jewish World War II veterans. Last year, it honored Jay and Julie Jacobson, for their work with nonprofit organizations.

This year, the Jewish agency chose to recognize to two outstanding physicians, Rabin and Tabin.

Rabin first developed awareness of the refugee plight while spending a summer in a small Israeli town, where she met people displaced from Russia, Ethiopia and Morocco. It triggered her lifelong interest in cross-cultural medicine. She later spent time in Jamaica, Senegal and southern India.

As medical director at Utah Health and Human Rights, an advocacy group that works with refugees and asylum seekers, Rabin has cared for many who from the front lines of the world's political and humanitarian crises. In 2011, she was honored by the Utah Refugee Services Office for her "invaluable contribution to improving the health of refugees resettled in Utah."

After climbing the world's so-called "7 Summits," including Everest, Tabin, an ophthalmologist at the Moran Eye Center, co-founded the Himalayan Cataract Project. He has focused on eliminating "all preventable and treatable blindness from the developing world in our lifetime," according to his bio. The Dalai Lama called the Utah doctor an "unsung hero" for his "international efforts and dedication."

But the Jewish social services agency also wanted to acknowledge the work of other medical "mensches," or people regarded as extraordinarily good and honorable, Dowsett says. "There is a large group of medical practitioners in our community — Jews by birth or part of interfaith families — who've offered pro bono services, done medical missions abroad or given back to the community through their practice."

They will all be acknowledged together, he says, in one mass tribute offered by the agency and others in the Jewish community.

pstack@sltrib.com —

About Jewish Family Service

Jewish Family Service is a nondenominational social service agency. Programs include counseling on a sliding-fee scale, care management for seniors, caregiver support, Park City Career Network, Émigré Services, community education and emergency assistance. To learn more about the Fifth Annual Tribute Dinner, which is open to the public, go to http://www.jfsutah.org.