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Being active in the Jewish community has always been important to Chaim Rappaport. And now that his wife, Lisa Rappaport, is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel in Chico, he’s in the public eye more than ever. But over the last few years, being out in the world has become increasingly difficult for Chaim.

He grew up before fluoride was common and has always had trouble with his teeth. Dentures don’t work well for him, and by the time he came to Hebrew Free Loan he had only a few teeth left in his mouth. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Chaim found it almost a blessing to wear a mask everywhere. At least he didn’t have to be self-conscious about his smile anymore.

Thanks to assistance from Hebrew Free Loan, Chaim and Lisa could afford the full mouth dental implants he needed without depleting the savings they’re counting on to send their two teenage daughters to college. And Chaim is now happy to take off his mask in all situations where it’s safe to do so.

“The interest-free health care loan from Hebrew Free Loan literally changed my life. I can smile at people without a clouded self-consciousness that I don’t have any teeth. I can be fully present in conversations again in a way I haven’t been for years.”

Chaim and Lisa have guaranteed interest-free loans for a number of friends in the past, ready and willing to back others in need of a helping hand. It meant a lot to them that they too could turn to the Jewish community for help when they needed it.

Chaim and Lisa could never have predicted they would end up in Chico, with Lisa serving as spiritual leader at Beth Israel and well on her way to becoming ordained as a rabbi through ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal.

The couple first met in Oakland, where Chaim was a computer teacher and Lisa was a receptionist at St. Paul’s Episcopal School. They lived in Chico for awhile when their girls were young, but moved back to the Bay Area so Mia and Lucy could attend Tehiyah Day School. When Beth Israel invited Lisa to become the congregation’s spiritual leader three years ago, it felt like a homecoming for the family.

Leading a congregation through the pandemic hasn’t been easy, but Lisa has approached the challenge with creativity and dedication. Chaim and Lisa are optimistic about their future and excited to be helping to build Chico’s Jewish community. And Chaim is delighted that he can smile as much as he wants to, for the first time in many years.

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