Note from Heidi Weber, Executive Director: Ben Williamowsky, of blessed memory, was a friend to many and the most loyal supporter of Alpha Omega. Many members did not get a chance to meet Ben before he passed away at age 94 on February 26, 2019.
Steve Kahan, AO Past International President and Washington, D.C. chapter member, was asked by the family to provide remarks about Ben during the funeral service on March 1, 2019. Steve's words shared many interesting things that people who knew Ben may not have known. For others who did not personally know Ben, the remarks give a blueprint to describe a man devoted to his family, his profession, his community, and AO.
In the fall of 1966, I entered my freshman year of dental school.
Having been raised by parents who always stressed to me the importance of affiliating and supporting Jewish causes and organizations, it was only natural that when I was invited to join Alpha Omega, the Jewish dental fraternity, I jumped at the opportunity.
It was during the second semester, of that freshman year, that the student chapter was introduced to the local alumni chapter. We were invited to an evening meeting where we would meet local members, have dinner together and listen to a scientific speaker. I do not remember what we had for dinner. I do not remember what the topic of the speaker was. But I do remember meeting a local dentist who was outgoing, who was warm, who was engaging and who I am happy to say was my friend for the next 50 plus years. I do remember meeting Ben Williamowsky.
Ben was a mover and shaker in the local Alpha Omega chapter and continued his activism on the national and international level. He served in every aspect of the local group including as its President and being honored by the chapter with its highest honor, the Michael J. Harris Award. He continued his efforts on the national level as he served on multiple committees, many as the chair, and as a Regent, overseeing all chapters in a 4-state area. Ben was often urged, by people around the country, to run for office on the national level, but always deferred, saying that there were other people more deserving. Finally, after much urging from many people, Ben agreed to run for the office of international secretary. At the time, becoming an international officer meant a 6-year commitment, on Ben's part, culminating with his service as the International President of Alpha Omega. Ben accepted these obligations enthusiastically and went on to become the most traveled International President AO has ever had. There was no chapter that Ben and Minna didn't visit.
As Ben served in the many positions that he held in Alpha Omega, over the years, two characteristics stood out more than any others. His enthusiasm and dedication were effusive. Everyone that he met was positively affected by Benny. And I, fortunately, was one of those people. Through his encouragement, I was able to follow in his footsteps and serve with him and see what a real "mensch" really was.
When we were attending the annual conventions of AO, Ben took on multiple positions. He was the first man to show up at morning minyan, he was the person who always made sure we had a Torah available for minyans, he was the guy who ever made sure that the new attendee was included and not forgotten about, and he was the guy who was still called on during downtime for a story or a joke. And we all know that Benny always had a story or a joke. We all know that Benny never met a microphone that he didn't fall in love with. Ben was the perpetual MC of AO. But what you all may not know is that Benny was one of several Alpha Omegans, in the 112-year history of the organization, to be an International President and the recipient of the Meritorious Service Award, the highest honor the fraternity can bestow on one of its members.
Ben was a strong supporter of dentistry in Israel and believed that it was essential that the country has two exceptional dental schools to provide practitioners for that need. It was through AO's efforts in the 1950s that the first dental school was established at Hebrew University and it was also through our efforts that The Maurice and Gabriella Goldschleger School of Dental Medicine founded by Alpha Omega was established at Tel Aviv University. From its beginning, the school at Tel Aviv was strongly supported by Ben and his good friend Ralph Rothstein, of blessed memory. They took on, as a personal goal, efforts to make sure that Tel Aviv University's dental school would survive. And through their efforts, the school, today, is a highly respected dental school, worldwide. In their appreciation for what Ben and Ralph did, the school went on to establish the Rothstein-Williamowsky Post – Graduate Clinics.
Never one to NOT be concerned about his fellow man and their needs, Ben became very concerned about the plight of the Holocaust survivors in the Washington, DC area. He, personally, took it upon himself to set up a program to treat these survivors, who did not have the financial means, on a "pro bono" basis. He personally recruited the dentists in the Washington area to provide services, he arranged for laboratory services, and he worked with the Jewish Social Services Agency to screen these Holocaust survivors and assign them to the various volunteer dentists. This program has become so successful, that it has been expanded to the entire Alpha Omega Dental Society and is currently actively treating Holocaust survivors in 23 cities in North America as well as 4 dental schools. In the Washington, DC area, alone, in 2018, 123 survivors received nearly $203,000 worth of dental care. The program's success was even praised by Vice President Joe Biden. Ben's actions for this program might honestly qualify him for sainthood if that existed in Judaism.
Ben Williamowsky was a rare individual. He loved people. He loved dentistry. He loved Alpha Omega. We have all lost greatly today.
Rest in peace, my friend.
Steve Kahan, PIP