Inside Dentistry
January 2008
Volume 4, Issue 1

Advancing Peace in the Middle East— American Friends of The Hebrew University Hosts “Bridges to Peace” Gala

Six giants in the field of dental medicine were honored at a gala “Bridges to Peace” dinner hosted by the American Friends of The Hebrew University (AFHU) on October 16, 2007, at the Pierre Hotel in New York City. Recognized for their diverse contributions to the dental profession and for their dedication to fostering peace in the Middle East, the eminent recipients of the Etz Shalom (Tree of Peace) award were: Clement Alpert, DDS, a private practitioner and community leader; Stanley M. Bergman, chairman and CEO of Henry Schein, Inc; Morton Charlestein, chairman of the board emeritus of Premier Dental Products Company; D. Walter Cohen, DDS, chancellor emeritus of Drexel University College of Medicine and dean emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine; R. Bruce Donoff, DMD, MD, dean of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine; and Allen Finkelstein, DDS, chief dental officer for AmeriChoice/UnitedHealth Group.

Welcoming more than 250 guests to the “Bridges to Peace” awards ceremony, AFHU President George A. Schieren remarked: “I am thrilled that we are paying tribute to the very best people the dental health field has produced.”

In addition to the auspicious honorees, the distinguished co-chairs for the event were Tom Chappell, co-founder and CEO of Tom’s of Maine; Gary Charlestein, CEO of Premier Dental Products Company; Steven W. Kess, vice president of professional relations for Henry Schein, Inc; Dr. Robert Leaf, president and CEO of American Dental Consultants; Dr. Jonathan Richter; Dr. Louis Rose; Dr. Edwin Rosenberg; and Anthony Welters, executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group.

The Tree of Peace awards, designed and cast in bronze by the acclaimed Israeli artist Hedva Ser, were presented to the honorees by Professor Adam Stabholz, DMD, dean of The Hebrew University–Hadassah School of Dental Medicine Founded by the Alpha Omega Fraternity. Under the auspices of the D. Walter Cohen Middle East Center for Dental Education, a pioneering Israeli–Palestinian partnership was launched between Israel’s premier dental school and the newly established Faculty of Dental Medicine at Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem. Present to celebrate this flourishing partnership and to pay tribute to the evening’s honorees were Professor Musa Bajali, Dean of Al-Quds Dental School, and Professor Sari Nusseibeh, President of Al-Quds University and the evening’s keynote speaker. Professor Nusseibeh was introduced by the legendary Dr. D. Walter Cohen. Dr. Cohen applauded “Sari Nusseibeh’s courageous leadership, which helped to create the groundbreaking partnership that has been formed between these two institutions.”  

Acknowledging the many difficulties inherent in creating successful collaborations between Israelis and Palestinians given the complexities of Middle East affairs, Professor Nusseibeh extolled the joint efforts of Deans Bajali and Stabholz. Their work through the D. Walter Cohen Center and Al-Quds University is bringing improved oral health to the Palestinian people and underserved populations in other parts of the Middle East. Collaborative efforts are creating new forums for meaningful dialogue between professionals of different backgrounds, faiths, and cultures, and are producing new generations of young professionals skilled in the techniques of modern dentistry.

A former Palestine Liberation Organization representative and professor of Islamic and political philosophy who once taught at The Hebrew University, Professor Nusseibeh remarked on the progress being made through these fruitful academic and research collaborations. “I am happy and proud that on both sides of the national divide, there are more voices calling for a common future. One truth stands out: Israelis and Palestinians, objectively speaking, of all people in the world, have the most shared interests. Theirs is a joint future and the work you support is building a bridge to the future.”  

The dinner’s Master of Ceremonies, Martin E. Karlinsky, President of AFHU’s New York Region, noted that in addition to the ongoing teaching and practice relationship between Al-Quds University and The Hebrew University, the institutions are organizing exciting international dental symposia that draw professionals from many parts of the world. The 2006 symposium was held in Jerusalem, and the 2007 symposium was held in Ankara, Turkey.    

Stanley Bergman, speaking on behalf of the six honorees, affirmed the role of dental medicine in building bridges to peace. He stated: “The idea of diplomacy in dentistry is a dream we will fulfill. Our efforts are dealing with issues of access to quality dental care in a most meaningful way.” Under his leadership, Henry Schein Cares, the global social responsibility program of Henry Schein, Inc, has long been committed to the work of the D. Walter Cohen Center and has provided cutting-edge equipment and supplies for Hebrew University clinics used to train Israeli and Palestinian dental professionals.

A large-scale Tree of Peace sculpture was donated by Dr. Allen Finkelstein in memory of his parents and was installed in the courtyard of The Hebrew University’s School of Dental Medicine in December 2007, during the 100th anniversary celebration of the Alpha Omega Fraternity. The occasion also marked the completion of expanded facilities for the dental school at Ein Kerem, Jerusalem. Dr. Finkelstein stated: “Perhaps this tree will grow into a forest. Through this great healing science we will teach the world that we can live in peace in the Middle East and throughout the world.”

(Left to Right) Professor Carmi Gillon, Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, Steven W. Kess, Dean Adam Stabholz, Renae Jacobs-Anson, Dr. D.Walter Cohen, Dean Musa Bajali, Melba Pearlstein, Dr. Bruce Donoff, Dr. Allen Finkelstein, Danielle Finkelstein, Morton Charlestein, Peter T.Willner, AFHU National Executive Director Stanley M. Bergman, and Martin E. Karlinsky. The deans are working together to forge a mutually satisfying partnership. On the left is Dean Musa Bajali of Al-Quds University; on the right is Dean Adam Stabholz of The Hebrew University.

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