JERUSALEM — Sixty years after the women of Hadassah, the Hebrew University, and Alpha Omega International Fraternity opened the first dental school in Israel, hundreds of dentists, oral surgeons, and researchers from Israel and abroad celebrated the achievements of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Faculty of Dental Medicine and its role in building bridges to peace.

“From its modest beginning in 1953 with 12 enthusiastic students beginning a six-year journey toward obtaining their dental degrees,” notes Prof. Adam Stabholz, Dean, “our School of Dental Medicine has had a profound impact on the quality of dental care, teaching and research in Israel.”

With the theme of “Striving for Excellence in Dental Education and Research,” the celebration featured lectures by internationally renowned experts from Israel, Europe and the United States, as well as up-and-coming young researchers. Dr. Bruce Donoff, Dean of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, who lives in Chestnut Hill, Mass., highlighted the growing awareness of oral health in the developing world, where children often suffer from malnutrition as a result of dental problems. “Because of its location and experience in outreach,” he noted, “the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine can play a key role in this important work.”

Speaking at the celebration’s opening dinner, Donoff’s wife, Hadassah National Board Member Madelyn Donoff, reminded the participants that the 1918 American Zionist Medical Unit that Hadassah sent to Israel was headed by a dentist, Dr. Eliahu Lewin-Epstein. “The generation to generation connection,” she noted, “continued when his son, Jack Lewin-Epstein, became dean of the dental school.”

A highlight for the participants was the Middle East Symposium in Dental Medicine, “Building Bridges of Understanding Through Dental Medicine,” under the auspices of the D. Walter Cohen, DDS, Middle East Center for Dental Education, with its opening session at Al-Quds University in Abu Dis, in the Palestinian Authority. In the presence of Professors Cohen, Stabholz, and Musa Bajali, Dean of Al-Quds University School of Dental Medicine, a magnificent bronze Tree of Peace sculpture was dedicated on the plaza in front of the dental school. According to designer/artist Hedva Ser from France, the sculpture represents peace, health and hope. The tree contains the Hebrew letter, shin, representing the word shalom, and a dove sitting on a branch. Also entwined in the trunk and branches are the Hebrew letters for chai, which means “life.”

The first Tree of Peace sculpture stands on Hadassah Hospital’s Ein Kerem campus. Others have been inaugurated at Temple University in Philadelphia and the A.T. Still Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health in Mesa, Ariz.

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