Learn how this St. Louis native heals eyes, changes lives in Ethiopia

Dr. Morris Hartstein treats a Palestinian girl from Gaza with a lymphatic malformation in one of her eyes. She received treatment in an Israeli hospital.  Courtesy of Hartstein


Dr. Morris Hartstein has not only provided eye care for people in his former home (St. Louis) or his current home (Israel) but has also made 10 trips to Ethiopia, where he has treated residents who otherwise cannot afford care, trained Ethiopian ophthalmologists and established a food program for more than 500 malnourished children. 

The St. Louis native will discuss his experience in the African nation during a virtual Mirowitz Center event on March 4 at 2 p.m.  To register, visit http://bit.ly/Mirowitz-registration, call 314-733-9813 or email [email protected].  

During a 2014 visit, Hartstein, an ophthalmic, plastic and reconstructive surgeon, attended an afternoon mincha service in Gondar, Ethiopia, where thousands of Ethiopians were seeking to immigrate to Israel, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 

Hartstein thought the more than 100 people waiting at the service were there to pray, but it turned out they were there to see him. He determined that half of the people seeking his help had ocular health problems.

“At that point, all I could do was send them to the local hospital,” Hartstein, director of ophthalmic surgery at Shamir Medical Center, Tel Aviv University School of Medicine in Israel told JTA. “But it turned out that none of them followed through. They either couldn’t afford the 50-cent fee or didn’t know how to navigate the medical system.”

As a result, Hartstein kept coming back to Ethiopia to run clinics for patients. 

Before immigrating to Israel in 2004, Hartstein worked at Saint Louis University and belonged to Young Israel of St. Louis.

Read more in the Light’s 2018 interview with Hartstein about his experience making aliyah.