Published on September 20th, 2017 | by LedgerOnline0
Spotlight on Dr. Melissa Wikoff
West Hartford native gives the gift of hearing to Holocaust survivors
By Judie Jacobson
ATLANTA, Georgia – Eighteen Atlanta Holocaust survivors received free top-of-the-line hearing aids beginning on August 23rd, thanks in large part to West Hartford native Melissa Wikoff, a doctor of audiology living in Marietta, Georgia.
Dr. Wikoff, the Director of Audiology at Peachtree Hearing, a Marietta-based private audiology practice, joined forces with Amy Neuman, the Holocaust Survivor program manager for Jewish Family & Career Services (JF&SC) of Atlanta, to develop the Hearing for Holocaust Survivors program. Neuman and her team helped identify survivors who met the qualifications of the program and had hearing loss. She then referred the survivors to Wikoff for evaluations and impressions.
“Two years ago, I heard about a hearing aid program for Holocaust survivors in Maryland and I wanted to start a similar program in Atlanta,” says Neuman. “Dr. Wikoff went to the University of Maryland and saw an article in an alumni magazine about the same initiative, so when she approached me about it, I was thrilled to get started.”
Working together, the two women were able to secure a generous donation of high-end Starkey hearing aids from the Starkey Hearing Foundation. The donation of 18 hearing aids, plus lifetime care and services for the survivors from Peachtree Hearing came to more than $120,000 worth of technology and services.
“The ability to hear is crucial to well-being and is instrumental for social interaction and communication in general. We are so grateful to Dr. Wikoff for spearheading this initiative and devoting her time and efforts to provide free hearing aid services to all of the survivors involved in the program,” said Rick Aranson, JF&CS’ chief executive officer.
Herschel Greenblatt, one of the Holocaust survivors who received a pair of the hearing aids, often speaks about his life during the Holocaust at schools and at Atlanta’s William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum. After the initial fitting, Greenblatt will be under Wikoff’s care for any ongoing hearing care that is required.
“It’s a wonderful thing they are doing. You don’t realize how much you are missing hearing. Now, I will be able to hear students more clearly when they ask questions about my experience,” said Greenblatt.
When asked about her motivation to start the initiative, Wikoff explained, “making a difference in our community is a part of our mission at Peachtree Hearing. I wanted to find a way to remember and honor the survivors here in Atlanta. The sound we hear connects us to the people we love. For a population that lost so much, helping them hear the voices of friends and family is so important. JF&CS’ program for Holocaust Survivor Services has been an inspiration to us and it has been incredible to work together to make a difference.”
For the 33-year-old Wikoff, getting involved and giving back to the community seems to come naturally – and dates all the way back to her teen years whenshe served as regional vice president of the Conservative youth organization’s SA/To program (an acronym for “social action/tikkun olam). While growing up in West Hartford, Wikoff, who is the daughter of Dr. Hal and Judy Mooney, was a member of The Emanuel Synagogue. She is also the granddaughter of Sylvia Lutin and Robert Mooney. A graduate of Washington University in Saint Louis School of Medicine, Wikoff and her husband Josh are the parents of a three-year-old daughter, Avital.
In recognition of the leadership role she took in in developing the Hearing for Holocaust Survivors program, as well as the volunteer work she does at several senior facilities in the Atlanta area, where she provides free hearing aid cleanings, earwax checks and hearing screenings. In June, the Atlanta Jewish Times named Wikoff one of Jewish Atlanta’s “40 under 40” – 20 women and 20 men helping to make Atlanta a better place. Wikoff also was recently honored with the American Academy of Audiology Scholar Award.
In June, she told the Atlanta Jewish Times that she has been pleasantly surprised by the Jewish community’s support for her business.
“My very first patient at my practice came from a conversation at a synagogue event. My next patient came from a Jewish networking meeting,” she said. “The Atlanta Jewish community has been so welcoming, supportive, and has encouraged my business to grow and thrive. We are very lucky to be part of a community that wants to help each other succeed.”
CAP:Dr. Melissa Wikoff helps a patient in the Hearing for Holocaust Survivors program.