By Dave Sorter
The Nov. 28, 2012 birth of Ari Olukhov was certainly a joyous moment for his parents, Shira and Dimitri Olukhov of Dallas. And it was almost as joyous for those connected with a Dallas Jewish Community Foundation fund designed to help infertile couples.
Ari’s birth was the first success story to blossom from Priya: A New Fund for Jewish Reproduction of the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation. The fund has given $23,500 to five couples since its inception in 2009, including the Olukhovs and one couple whose conception efforts are in progress.
“In the Jewish nation, births are under the replacement level,” said Marna Edenson, the foundation’s senior director of programs and scholarships. “It is the lowest of any socioeconomic group in the nation.”
Priya was the brainchild of Annie Glickman and her husband, Rabbi David Glickman, former associate rabbi at Congregation Shearith Israel in Dallas and now senior rabbi at Congregation Beth Shalom in Overland Park, Kan.
“My husband and I experienced some secondary infertility issues,” said Annie Glickman, who is still actively involved with Priya. “When our son was born, it was a very painful process. I thought if I ever was able to have another child, I would want to give back.”
So when the Glickmans’ daughter, Dani, was born in February 2009, it was time to get things started.
“I encouraged people to make donations to the fund instead of giving us baby gifts,” Annie said. “We were able to get seed money.” Since then, several couples have done the same thing for wedding anniversaries and the birth of children. At least one bar mitzvah boy has asked for donations to the fund instead of gifts.
The Rabbinic Association of Greater Dallas played a big role in forming the fund, which emphasizes the commitment to help folks from all streams of Judaism, Edenson said.
“Families must identify as Jewish and live in the Dallas area,” she said. “They must be affiliated with a congregation of any denomination. The Glickmans knew it had to include all streams. The applicants must also have a plan for Jewish education.”
Added Annie Glickman: “Since one of our goals is Jewish unity, one thing in the Jewish community we can all agree on is we want to have more Jews.”
And there is one more Jew in the world thanks to Priya.
Shira and Dimitri Olukhov were married in November 2007 and moved to the Dallas area from New York in April 2009. They had been trying to have a baby for several years with no luck, Dimitri said, and sought advice.
They attend Congregation Ohr HaTorah, and Rabbi Aryeh Feigenbaum and others suggested they apply for a Priya grant.
“Rabbis all play a part in the applications because they’re working with the couples,” DJCF executive director Meyer Bodoff said. “The committee reviews the applications, and if it can make an award, it will. It’s all anonymous,” including the people on the committee.
The Olukhovs got a grant.
“We did IVF (in-vitro fertilization),” Dimitri said. “Before IVF, we tried other treatments. We had some specialists, some of the best specialists here. They suggested the IVF procedure, but they said it was so expensive. The rabbis said we could get a little help from Priya.”
One cycle of IVF costs more than $10,000 and can go much higher, depending on the type of treatment. Many couples have to make several attempts before getting pregnant or giving up.
Luckily for the Olukhovs (and Priya), Shira got pregnant on the first try. Nine months later, a bouncing baby Ari came into the world.
“It was an amazing day,” Dimitri said. “It’s hard to describe. There were so many emotions.”
Annie Glickman shared in those emotions, overjoyed that the fund she helped to create had a successful pregnancy.
“When I found out the couple was pregnant, my eyes were filled with tears,” she said. “When you find out someone is pregnant, you think b’sha’ah tovah,” a blessing that wishes for a successful pregnancy. “I’m so excited for them. This is the ultimate reward. I feel likes we helped someone achieve their goals.”
Dimitri Olukhov is, obviously a big fan of Priya.
“I think it’s good from two perspectives,” he said. “First, it’s a helpful organization looking to help people who need its services. Second, it’s a great way to help, to give back.”
And, he is trying to pay it forward.
“I was having lunch with somebody, and they’ve been trying to get pregnant,” Dimitri said. “So I suggested they think about Priya.”
This kind of fund is unique, both Glickman and Edenson said.
“I think this might be the only fund of its kind in the United States,” Glickman added. “I’d like to see more success stories. I look forward to continue working with Priya. I’d like to start something similar with the foundation here in Kansas City. I think every Jewish foundation should have a fund.”
Other couples helped by Priya will certainly conceive and give birth in the future. But for now, the first success story is a happy, healthy 4½-month-old.
“He’s certainly keeping Shira awake,” the father said. “Ari is healthy, thank God. I can’t complain.”