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D. Walter Cohen Ambassadorship to Israel 2018 Report

D. Walter Cohen Ambassadorship to Israel 2018

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Our names are Dr. Blair Cohen and Dr. Sara Engleman. We graduated from Temple University Kornberg School of Dentistry in May 2018. We’re both continuing our education in General Practice Residencies in New York and Philadelphia. We started our involvement with Alpha Omega within the first week of dental school and quickly learned how AO was a way for us to get involved and meet amazing people. In our 3rd year of school, we served as President and Vice President and worked hard to make Temple’s chapter strong and active. Dr. Marc Rothman presented us with the opportunity of a lifetime, to travel to Israel and see how Alpha Omega influenced dentistry across many cities. The D. Walter Cohen Alpha Omega Ambassadorship Trip to Israel was Dr. Rothman’s idea to send two dental students to Israel yearly. This gift to D. Walter Cohen was embodied by his dedication to education as it gives a chance for Alpha Omegans to connect and learn from each other. We are honored to be the beneficiaries of this ambassadorship this past summer because not only learned so much, but also met wonderful mentors, students, and friends. We feel proud to have been a part of D. Walter Cohen’s vision of education, mentorship, and generosity, and we are excited for future students to help his legacy live on.



When we arrived at Ben Gurion Airport, we immediately hopped on a bus to Jerusalem. We strolled the stands of Mahane Yehuda market and even bumped into some friends from Philadelphia. We visited the Kotel and got lost among the winding streets of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Ambass Jeru 6The following morning, we went to Dental Volunteers in for Israel. At DVI we met with Sharon Spira, the volunteer coordinator. She shared with us the many amazing things that DVI does including free dental care for children, free dentures for elderly patients, and seeing a mix of both Israeli and Arab patients. Like in many countries, the dental insurance does not cover enough of what is needed and dentistry is expensive. DVI gives low-income families the opportunity to receive quality dental care. They have a constant flow of volunteers from many countries because it offers dentists the chance to serve a community in need. We met a dentist from Denmark who had been there a few times before and we heard a story about a volunteer who was once a patient. DVI even serves as a rotation for the Pediatric Dental residents from Hebrew U. Dentists all over the world apply to be a part of this amazing organization.Ambass Jeru 2 We were so impressed by the welcoming attitude of everyone who worked there, and it is heartwarming to see how many people they are able to help who cannot afford routine dental care.

One of the programs we found most important was their initiative for a preventative hygiene program. All patients and parents must have hygiene education while being treated at DVI so that they can take home skills to maintain oral health. Overall, our visit to DVI was a great start to our trip because it gave us insight into the needs of the community and the structure of dentistry in Israel. We both could see ourselves coming back to volunteer there in our future.

After our time at DVI, we enjoyed strolling the streets of Jerusalem and came to the Hebrew Music Museum. It's an interactive museum that holds musical instruments from across the world where we could hear their sounds and learn about the history. It was fun to act like a kid for a few hours there.

Ambass Jeru 3The next day we went to the Hebrew U. School of Dental Medicine. In the front of the Dental School, there is the tree of peace statue given to the school by Allen Finklestein, an Alpha Omegan. From there, you can see Alpha Omega contributions all over the dental school, including the Greek letter imprinted on students’ scrubs. We started the morning by meeting with the dean, Dr. Aaron Palmon, and Dr. Stella Chausu, the head of orthodontics. We learned about the curriculum and process for dental school acceptance in Israel. We learned how different it is as students enter the army after high school and then enter a 6-year dental program. We took a tour of the school and even

got to see the Chagall windows at Hadassah Hospital. We enjoyed lunch with some 4th-year students with whom we discussed the differences between our educations and

daily lives. We learned that dental students in Israel have the same trials and tribulations as students in the US and they are just as worried about graduating as we are. We spent time with Tal EvenHaim,Ambass Jeru 4 the student representative, who showed us her community project she started at the dental school. Every other week, students stay for 4 hours after clinic hours to offer free treatment to patients from various homes and organizations who are not able to afford care. As Alpha Omega members, we were proud to see how much Alpha Omega helped the school become what it is today.

The following morning, we visited Shalva. Shalva provides comprehensive care and services for individuals with disabilities from infancy to adulthood and their families. Chana gave us a tour, showing us every inch of Shalva. They have programs for sports, arts and crafts, therapy for self and family, education and so much more. Looking around we could see that the individuals there represent every denomination and children from different parts of the world. Shalva’s main priority is inclusivity. They strive for every child and family member to feel part of their community and bridge the gap between Ambass Jeru 5those with disabilities and those who are able. Members of the community are free to come to visit, eat in the café, and use Shalva’s spaces for events. This helps bring people together and it’s so inspiring to see how much the volunteers care. We visited the Dental Clinic where we met Dr. Joseph Shapira. The dental clinic provides comprehensive exams, cleanings, and triages for dental procedures to be completed at outside dentists. He tries his hardest to work with families and caregivers to give his patients great dental care. Overall, Shalva was one of the most impressive facilities we had ever been to. The attention to detail is impeccable and it’s clear that everything was thought through thoroughly. Shalva is providing a safe place for so many people and we can’t wait to go back and visit.



Tel Aviv

Ambass Tel Aviv 1After Shalva we traveled to Tel Aviv. We met up with Sara’s college friend who took us to a wonderful vegan dinner and enjoyed a night on the town with friends. The following day was the Gay Pride Festival in Tel Aviv. It’s one of the biggest pride festivals in the world. It was amazing to see people from all over the world come together in support of gay rights all while enjoying a fun party.

Later that night we were invited to the home of Ofir Doitsch for Shabbat dinner. We enjoyed a home cooked meal with medical and dental students from Tel Aviv University. We talked for hours about dental school and life in Tel Aviv and America. We quickly became friends and plan to keep in touch with them. We spent Saturday on the beach like most people in Tel Avivans and relaxed to prepare for our visit to the Dental School.

We start our day at the Maurice and Gabriela Goldschleger School of Dental Medicine and met with Dr. Eldad Helft and learned about the curriculum and discussed with him what dental school was like for us. Ofir, the student president, took us on a tour of the school including the lecture halls, the pre-clinic, and dental clinics. We saw our friends from Shabbat dinner and got the chance to spend time in the preclinic watching the students hard at work. We were jealous of their typodont tooth vending machines, as they would have been very convenient at Temple of the last few years. We saw the impact that Alpha Omega continues to have on the Dental School. The students wear Ambass Tel Aviv 2scrubs with Alpha Omega Greek letters and we saw Alpha Omega contribution signs all over. Again, we were proud to be part of an organization that has given so much to our profession.

Following our visit to the dental school, we explored Tel Aviv University’s campus and found the Museum of the Jewish People. We enjoyed an afternoon learning about the amazing accomplishments of our ancestors and had fun playing with the interactive features of the museum.

Ambass Tel Aviv 3Our visit to Save a Child’s Heart came next. This wonderful organization provides free cardiac surgery and care for children in developing countries without pediatric cardiology specialists. They bring children from their countries, sometimes with their parents, to Israel for comprehensive care and allow them to stay for an average of 4-5 months. They treat children regardless of religion, background, gender, or age. They are providing such a wonderful service and shows just how Israel is capable of caring for so many types of people. We met children from Myanmar, Ethiopia, Tanzania and more. Save a Child’s Heart is such a special place. They recently had a donation of toothbrushes and toothpaste so of course, we spent some time teaching the children how to perform proper hygiene. Although there was a language barrier, we demonstrated ourselves and ensured that everyone was able to brush on their own.

Our final day in Tel Aviv we spent learning about AKIM at their Leviteh Hostel. Shani Jesherun spent the morning showing and telling us all about AKIM’s mission and what they have to offer. AKIM is Israel’s

national organization for people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Their mission is to promote inclusivity to the community. They also have a strong voice in human rights for those with disabilities. AKIM provides legal services for those who may find themselves in need. The Leviteh Hostel mostly had elderly residents. We learned that these people have jobs in the local communities, spend time doing various activities, and even have the chance to find love amongst themselves. The basement in the hostel serves as a bomb shelter, not only, for the residents of AKIM, but also for people in the local community. We also learned of the employment programs that support AKIM members, including their Dental project. AKIM and Hebrew U. Dental School have joined forces to provide training in dental professions for young adults with intellectual disabilities. When finished, the participants are able to work at the Dental School and will be qualified to find work in the Israeli dental job market. It’s amazing to see the opportunities that AKIM has provided for so many people.

Following our time at AKIM, we traveled to Haifa by bus.



Ambass Haifa 3We arrived at our modern bachelorette pad in Haifa on Monday, June 11th. We explored the main road, Sderot Ben Gurion, which was below the beautiful Ba’hai Gardens. We chose to eat at a Lebanese restaurant called Fattoush and ordered the most delicious meals. The hummus was so creamy and flavorful. The following morning, we visited Ram Bam Hospital. We met with Dr. Shaul Ambass Haifa 2Lin who is the director of the Endodontics Residency Program at Ram Bam Hospital. He gave us a tour of the Hospital and explained all about the program. He showed us a spectacular view of the Mediterranean Sea and the nearby army base. Dr. Lin took us to the underground parking garage that, in times of emergency, can function as a full hospital. Each parking spot has the ability to provide oxygen and suction from the wall. Ram Bam is prepared for any crisis that may come. It is fascinating that war is a way of life for the Israelis. They are unfazed by bomb threats or sirens. We also went to the children’s hospital in Ram Bam where they treat children regardless of their religion. The children’s hospital had a café, a museum, and playgrounds for the kids to play while they wait to be seen by the doctors.

After visiting Ram Bam Hospital, we went to see the Ba’hai Gardens. Unfortunately, we were not dressed modestly enough to take a tour of the Gardens but we were able to see from a distance the beautiful flowers and architecture. Ba’hai people from across the world come to visit the gardens and spend time working there to maintain the grounds. We also went to the Israel Museum of Science, Technology, and Space. The museum was very interactive. We were able to play hands-on with the exhibits to learn about sound waves, magic, and constellations in outer space.


Tzfat/Rosh Pina

Ambass Rosh 1The next day we traveled to Tzfat, a city of history, religion, and art. We walked around the Old City and bought souvenirs at the shops. We visited David Freidman’s art gallery where every piece of 

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work is inspired by Kabbalah. We went to Abouhav Winery and tasted three types of red wine. We also went to the candle store where they sell beautiful handmade candles. We walked by a synagogue where children were dancing to Israeli music. Our Airbnb was a romantic suite with a balcony overlooking the city. It was a hotel that had Torah classes in the lobby every day. In the evening, Dr. Alejandro Roisentul took us to dinner in Rosh Pinah near his home with his sons. His son, Shon, picked us up from our Airbnb and drove us to the restaurant. He told us inspiring stories of him in the army and life in Israel.

The next day, we were to have Dr. Roisentul show us around. Our first stop was Ziv Hospital, where Dr. Roisentul is the head oral surgeon. He gave us the grand tour of the hospital and showed us a video of his work he does for Syrian refugees. Syrian refugees come to Ziv hospital for treatment and Ziv Hospital, Dr. Roisentul, and many other doctors donate their time and money to treat these patients. It is very special because these patients get treatment regardless of their background. These patients have been affected by the Syrian War one way or another. We had lunch in the hospital cafeteria which was similar to an American hospital cafeteria. Next Dr. Roisentul took us to his house where his office is. We met his dogs too! We visited Nimrods Lookout which was made in memoriam of Nimrod who was an IDF soldier in the reserves who was killed while fighting. We went to a Chocolate Café that had the most delicious truffles and milkshakes Blair’s ever had. Next, Dr. Roisentul said we were going to the Golan Heights. Little did we know, he

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 had some other surprises up his sleeve. We stopped at Asaf Winery to try many different wines. There were many military Ambass Rosh 3bases that we passed on the way to the Golan Heights. We went to Mount Bental and 

The next day we traveled back to Tel Aviv. We walked around Jaffa during the day. In the evening, we had the largest dinner at the restaurant called the Old Man and the Sea. They served us nearly 20 plates of crawled in a military bunker. At Mount Bental, we were able to see the Syrian border, which was a definite photo op. Our next surprise was a Druze Bakery where we tried some pastry made of cheese, and the strongest coffee you’ll ever taste. It was different than anything we’ve ever tasted! We stopped on the Jordan River where Blair got nervous from the rocky roads. Dr. Roisentul surprised us by playing some of his music he made. We would have never guessed what an amazing singer he is. Our last stop was a burger joint that was just as good as an American burger! We were very appreciative of the special adventure that Dr. Roisentul took us on. It was definitely a day we will never forget.

Ambass Rosh 4different salads with pita. The salads were unlimited. We couldn’t eat it all. Heading back to the airport in Tel Aviv was bittersweet. We were both excited to get home and start the next chapter of our lives at our General Practice Residencies but were also going to miss visiting such amazing places in Israel. These two weeks was the trip of a lifetime and something we will never forget. We are so grateful to have been the beneficiaries of D. Walter Cohen’s Ambassadorship to Israel. It gave us the opportunity to meet with remarkable people and learn about dentistry and community service in Israel. We feel inspired to continue our journey at Alpha Omega, become involved in our own communities, and go back to Israel to visit with the new friends and colleagues we met on our trip.


Dr. Blair Cohen and Dr. Sara Engleman 


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