Greetings to all my fellow AO Members,
How ironic that as we celebrate the joyous festival of Purim, when the Jewish people were saved from the anti-Semitic Haman, we are faced with episodes of anti-Semitism that we thought was long dead and buried. We have known for the past few years that anti-Semitism was rising in Europe. Of course we felt for our Fraters in these countries but it was still far from North America.
Unfortunately it is now on America's and Canada's doorstep. It can't be ignored. The sight of damaged Jewish cemeteries, smashed head stones, swastikas daubed all over the place, frightening bomb threats at Jewish Schools and Jewish Community Centres, sadly this is the new reality. If ever Alpha Omega was relevant it is now. I urge you to not only re engage with your Chapters but badger and nudge lapsed members to rejoin. We need every Jewish colleague, Dentists and Associates to stand up and be counted and together let us defy this cancer that is returning to haunt us. I will be writing to lapsed members in the near future to try and get them to reconnect with AO.
But we must never let ourselves be intimidated and the Jewish way to avoid this is to increase our joy. To quote Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: "The people that can know the full darkness of history and yet rejoice is a people whose spirit no power on earth can ever break.
Purim Sameach to you all. Andy and I wish you a Purim full of joy.
When I look around at this wonderful gathering, full of Alpha Omegans together with spouses, partners and friends, I’m reminded of the comment of Mark Twain. He was visiting England when a report got through to him that his obituary had just been published in New York. He immediately wired back to the United States that “the report of my death was an exaggeration. To be honest he had been ill but not that ill. Well, to me it's the same with AO, l started the year as President Elect of this brilliant organisation, to be told this Convention would be the last ever Convention. And AO is dying. Those reports are premature and I hope you've signed up for the European Meeting in Lyon and for what looks like a wonderful next Convention in Florida.
Do you know 110 years ago there was no AO, but plenty of anti-Semitism, discrimination, and racism? AO started in Baltimore 110 years ago by Jewish Dental Students to fight all this. It became the voice of the Jew in dentistry and has achieved an enormous amount. AO has been at the forefront in fighting anti-Semitism, discrimination and racism. And yet AO is as relevant today as it was then. If only we could get our fellow colleagues to see this. We only have to see what is going on at Universities in the States and in Europe. Try being a Jewish student. Try walking around with a kippah. Try and get an Israeli speaker and you almost get a riot. And this was Oxford University. One of the greatest seats of learning. It is crazy. And now the B D S Movement. To boycott, divest, or apply sanctions to anything Israeli is an affront to any self-respecting democratic individual. We are the voice of the Jew in Dentistry. Are we making ourselves heard?
Somehow, just as our forebears did in 1907, we need to get to our fellow Jewish colleagues and resonate with them, we need to renew our efforts and re-engage our colleagues and friends. We now have this brilliant status of Associate Membership. And just look what AO has indeed achieved, The Dental Schools in Israel, the ambulances bought, the philanthropy undertaken, and now the amazing Holocaust Survivors Programme. At this point I must just thank Henry Schein Cares for their contribution and assistance with this amazing project. Our history has been awesome, but for now let us lock these achievements away and look to the future. Standing still is tantamount to extinction.
I want to mention Abraham Maslow, a famous social anthropologist. Maslow developed Man's Hierarchy of Needs in the shape of a pyramid. At the bottom Man is struggling for his physiological needs, e.g. Food, Water, Air, Warmth, Shelter etc. As Man progresses up the ladder, family life, relationships, self-esteem, self-worth, self actualising develops until the pinnacle, the top of the pyramid is reached. That is until a sense of contribution is developed. This is the apogee, the highest level man can achieve is a sense of contribution. Brilliant!!!! How amazing. A person feels the greatest fulfilment by contributing to the greater good. Hmmm!!!
And now my friends, let me talk about Viktor Frankl. Holocaust Survivor, Psychiatrist, Academic, Author and Family Man.
In 1943, Viktor Frankl, the most famous Psychiatrist in Vienna, together with his family was thrown in to a boxcar and shipped off to Auschwitz. On arrival, his family were sent immediately to the gas chambers and murdered. Frankl, being of a good physique was sent to a labour camp. He relates all this in his outstanding book "Mans Search for Meaning" An amazing book, published in many languages and still very much in print.
One night, outside in the freezing cold in those vile striped uniforms, Frankl said to himself, if I am to survive this experience I will need to fulfil 3 criteria. I will keep a vision of myself lecturing to my beloved students in a warm bright auditorium, secondly I will use whatever medical skill I have to help my fellow man. And thirdly whatever the Nazis do to me they will never ever take away my power to choose my own attitude. Awesome. What a lesson. Frankl survived and when he died a few years ago the Times of London had a full page obituary for this remarkable man. Only one in 27 people survived the Holocaust.
You know when people ask what one gets out of AO, I smile, I think of of the friendships, local, national and international. I think of the philanthropy in the past, in the present and what will be done in the future. In fact Andy and I believe we are the lucky ones to be members of AO I just want take a brief minute to congratulate the French Chapters on the wonderful work they've done in the past year and the terrific amount of money they have raised, for local causes and for Israel. Kol Hakavod.
At this point, I would like to address a few words to our Past International Presidents. The tPIPs…Those that are here and those who, unfortunately, could not attend Convention. You are like our parents, you have achieved the highest office AO can offer, please please stay connected with AO. We need you, we respect you and we love you. Please stay engaged with the Fraternity, stay engaged with us, help us, advise us and mentor us. And to PIP John Wolffe its comforting knowing there is a PIP in London.
Let me say how thrilled I am to see Ken Spektor here. He has had so many challenges in the past year but I knew he would do everything in his power to be here.
I want to thank the outgoing Board members for their hard work and commitment, and also to welcome the new Board. Hopefully you will have a stimulating and fulfilling year.
Also, it's been great having meetings with the Admin Board, I must personally thank, Alan Moltz, Gail Schupak, and Steve Spitz for staying on Board. You've all been really great.
To our Marshalls, Mike Tenenbaum and Marty Braverman. You guys have excelled yourselves. What a terrific Convention this is. Your enthusiasm and concern has been awesome.
I want to thank Heidi, our Executive Director, for her contribution to AO this year. She has already helped me a great deal in preparing for my term of office.
Additionally this will be the first time that I can recall that I will be serving on an AO Board without a Stabholz. I'm going to miss you guys. You have no idea what a wicked sense of humour Ayala has. I just loved sitting next to her. You guys are really inspirational.
I also must comment on how delighted I am Steve Marsh will be following me. It's great to know that when I am in Wendy's place next year AO will be passing on to a very safe pair of hands.
But here I need to address our outgoing International President. Wendy, your passion, your commitment. Your love for AO is beyond exemplary. We have been so fortunate to have had you (with a little help from your Michael and Avi Wurman) as our International President. We've had a very good year working together, long may this continue. It's just a pain in the neck Seattle being 8 hours behind London.
I can honestly say Wendy totally dedicated this past year to AO. Again Kol Hakavod.
Huge congratulations to our Achievement Award recipient Dean Alfano To our Meritorious Awardee Laurie Gordon Shaw, how well deserved. And to our Certificate of Merit recipient, the London Chapter's own Andrew Eder. Warmest congratulations.
To my sister Denise and her husband Frank, from Atlanta, now you know why Andy and I keep coming back to Convention, it's totally addictive. It's terrific you are here and Nina, my dental assistant and now associate member of AO. And to all those first timers to Convention, they just get better and better. Everyone is different but all are terrific. And of course, next year in Florida. You can actually register now. We need to thank Avi, Alan Moltz, Steve Marsh and Heidi for getting it organised.
My friends, I believe we, as dentists, belong to one of the luckiest professions. And I would like to turn our attention to those less fortunate than ourselves. In fact there are two projects I'd like to talk about. Both dealing with challenged children.
One is SHALVA. An amazing organisation in Israel, dedicated to providing quality care for children with disabilities, empower their families, and promoting social change. Non-denominational and free of charge. Shalva's programmes run from infancy to adulthood. Remarkable. Andy and I visited this outstanding institution in Jerusalem and were blown away. Please remember this organisation. Google it. How amazing it would be if we could get our Chapters involved. It's a terrific set up. Truly!! They also have a fully equipped dental hygiene centre.
The other is ALEH. Israel's largest network of care for children with severe multiple disabilities. Over 700 children with intellectual and developmental disabilities and medical conditions receive advanced medical, educational and rehabilitative care in ALEH's four residential facilities. In addition ALEH provides over 26000 outpatient treatments annually. At ALEH, they look beyond the disability to the child within. By nurturing development and enriching the quality of life, they try to enable each child to reach their potential.
The other thing is our brilliant organisation is about to turn 110. Imagine if all our members donated $110 to the Fraternity. Or even multiples of $110. What a fitting celebration this would be. Donating $110 to celebrate this great milestone. This is only a suggestion. Let's see if it gets legs.
And so, Andy and I have committed ourselves to AO this year (actually we're committed every year), let's all of us make this a year of renewal, a year of re engagement and a year of re commitment
And finally I want to leave you all with 3 quotations that are very meaningful to me and I hope to you too. To quote my great friend and mentor, our Achievement Medal recipient at the last San Francisco Convention Dr. Omer K Reed. The real Father of Practice Management, pioneer, innovator, mentor to many, many colleagues, and probably the most positive influence in dentistry for a generation. Omer always said: "Do the right thing, at the right time, in the right place, with the right people, FOR THE RIGHT REASONS"
And from former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks “To be a Jew is to help heal a broken world. We are the people who don't stand still. We are the people for whom life is a journey to a world of justice, compassion and healing; which is not yet; but which we will not cease, until we help bring it about."
And for a final thought, again from Chief Rabbi Sacks, which I would like to leave you with:
"Optimism is the belief that things are going to get better. HOPE is the belief that that WE can make things better. Optimism is passive, HOPE is active. It takes no courage to be an optimist, but it does need courage to HOPE.”
Let us go on this journey together optimistic in outlook, but with HOPE in our hearts that Alpha Omega is again going to thrive.
2017 International President
One of the most recognized holidays of the Jewish people is Passover. It's a story about freedom, it is a story about our people and its most famous leader, Moses, and it is a story we retell every year so we don't forget.
As our tradition has dictated, everyone is invited to the table to hear the story. From the littlest to the oldest, to the simplest to the smartest. From the non-religious to the most religious-non Jewish to Jewish. It's a story that's starts with a prince who becomes a shepherd and then the most famous of our leaders.
It's about a people who were slaves and became the people of the book. It's the story about a family who defied tradition, from the speech impeded child to the sister who danced our people out of slavery to freedom. We eat different foods to tell the story and remember.
It's about a people who continually give to mankind despite the odds, the difficulties and horrors of their history. It is the story of my people.
May you all be invited to participate in a Passover Seder and learn something more about our story. May you find connection with our people. May you continue to be a part of a people who defy all odds and never stop trying to 'heal the world.’
Sending blessings and thanks to our Alpha Omega Family, for all you do - to continually care about people and stay engaged in our world and give back as dental healers! From our family to yours.
Wendy and Michael Spektor
A few months ago Ayala and I were invited to Sao Paulo, Brazil, to lecture at the annual meeting of the Sao Paulo State Dental Association - January 2015.
We were told that this is one of the largest dental congresses in the world, usually attended by at least 50,000 dentists with a huge dental exhibition. Our previous visits to Brazil were always exciting and enjoyable as it is indeed a beautiful country with wonderful people.
Once the excellent Alpha Omega Convention in Tel Aviv ended, we started preparing our presentations for Brazil. At the same time we were in contact with Philippe levy to plan our first Presidential visit to Alpha Omega chapters in Europe (France, Belgium and Germany). Not much later we were shocked by the news from France. At first the attack on Charlie Hebdo, followed by the violent tragic event in the Hyper Kasher store in Paris.
Our hearts and prayers were with our French fraters, and once again with all the pain and sorrow, seeing the funerals of the Jewish victims brought to be buried in Jerusalem, we could realize the significance of the old Jewish proverb from the Mishnah: If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I?
Alpha Omega’s strength is in its unity and its adherence to its noble values. When we are threatened our answer is to become stronger by recruiting more members who share our values. Thus, our trip to attend the dental congress in Sao Paulo presented a great opportunity to meet some Jewish dentists, to tell them what Alpha Omega stands for and to discuss with them the possibility of establishing a first ever Alpha Omega chapter in Brazil.
We have met with several Jewish dentists. They told us about themselves and about their lives in Brazil. Each of them revealed a most interesting life story. Daniel told us about his grandfather who was born in Petah Tikvah and left to Brazil at the age of three to search for a new life, and Samy told us that as a youngster he came to Israel to spend one year in a Kibbutz and was happy to talk with us in Hebrew. All of them have warm feelings towards Israel and were impressed to learn that Alpha Omega helped to establish both dental schools in Israel.
We were very pleased to see their enthusiasm to accept the challenge of forming an Alpha Omega chapter in Brazil, and two of them may even attend the Kabalat Shabbat that Alpha Omega is planning in Cologne, during the IDS meeting in March.
I hope that at the Washington convention we will have the pleasure of presenting the charter to a new chapter that would join the Alpha Omega family - Brazil.
Alpha Omega International Past Presidents, Alpha Omega's Achievement Award Medal Recipients, Deans, officers, fraters, spouses, friends and guests.
It is a great honor for me to stand here before you as the International President of our wonderful organization.
Alpha Omega has been an important part of my life for more than half my lifetime. I have had the pleasure of serving our fraternity as a Chapter President, Regent, member of the Board of Trustees, member of the Board of Directors, Dean of the School of Dental Medicine founded by Alpha Omega and now as its International President.
For me it was, is and always will be a labor of love, and I would like to express my deep gratitude and appreciation for affording me this opportunity. It is also a very special honor to be installed as President in Israel, my home for over 60 years.
Thank you all for coming tonight, for your support and for your trust.