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Alpha Omega Dental Fraternity Was Honoured At Jewish National Fund's Negev Gala May 29 2018

June 4, 2018

The Alpha Omega Dental Fraternity was born out of necessity as a result of the undemocratic, anti-religious, racist and outright antisemitic sentiments prevalent in Dental schools at the turn of the 20th century.  At this time, minority groups, particularly in Faculties of Medicine and Dentistry, were being ostracized and marginalized by both student body and faculty alike.  During the early 1900's, it became evident that the only way one could effect anything resembling fair play for minority groups in post graduate education was to unify the religious minority and band together with a cohesiveness of purpose.


And thus in 1907, in Philadelphia, the Alpha Omega (AO) Fraternity was founded. It is interesting to note that at approximately the same time period, Jewish dental students in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Minneapolis, and Chicago were realizing the need to form a unified group in their respective schools, in order to combat the outrageous discrimination foisted on a minority group, in this case, the students of Jewish faith. In Philadelphia, a group of Jewish dental students attending the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery organized themselves as a fraternity, followed by Baltimore in 1908. Discussions of convergence ensued between these two student groups, and in 1909, the AO Fraternity was officially formed. So urgent was the need to fight discrimination that subsequent student chapters formed very quickly over the next decade. In 1916, the graduates of some of these dental schools formed the first alumni chapter in Philadelphia. Alumni chapters grew by leaps and bounds, with Toronto forming the first Canadian alumni chapter in 1924.  


Alpha Omega is the oldest international dental organization and has the distinction of being the oldest Jewish Medical organization. The Manitoba chapter of AO received its charter in December 1946, and has been active in community oral health, education, research, and charitable endeavours ever since.  The student chapter of AO was incorporated in 1959.   In 1958, the Faculty of Dentistry, at the University of Manitoba was established and shortly thereafter, fifteen Alpha Omegans were on staff in both clinical and research departments. The first graduating class was in 1962, and out of the fifteen graduates, seven were Alpha Omegans.


Over the decades, Manitoba AO has donated tens of thousands of dollars to many local and international charities. The Canadian Institute for the Study of  Antisemitism (CISA); the Canadian Museum of Human Rights; the Simkin Centre; Siloam Mission; Jewish Child and Family Service;  Christmas Cheer Board; Heart and Stroke; United Way;  Jewish Foundation of Manitoba; School of Dentistry Rady Faculty of Health Sciences are amongst the many recipients of our foundations funds.  AO Manitoba chapter was very involved in donating funds towards the building of the Hebrew University Dental School in Jerusalem. AO International has provided funds to help build a dental clinic in Jerusalem for disadvantaged children, named the Dental Volunteers for Israel (DVI) clinic. Manitoba chapter has donated funds for DVI, and most importantly, has provided critically needed manpower to treat these children with an AO Manitoban travelling to Israel for each of the last eight years.


For the last fifty two years, AO Manitoba has sponsored an annual AO Memorial scientific lecture - in honour of our departed fraters - to the entire dental community with no registration fee. We are also very proud of the AO conference room at the Dental School, built by our local fraternity, directly across the Dean's office.  


The Mission statement of AO Fraternity is "to offer dentists, oral health professionals, and students a welcoming fraternal community that honours the organizations Judaic heritage, provides opportunities to attain professional excellence and promotes access to oral health care for all."   AO's Vision statement "envisions communities where everyone has access to oral health care and whose members can contribute to the well-being of others."  Our core values are integrity, compassion, inclusion, and generosity which arises from sharing knowledge, skills and resources in the promotion of oral health, and the pursuit of personal and professional growth. 


The foundational guiding principles of AO Fraternity are; access to oral health and wellness; promoting social justice; and Tikkun Olam – repairing an ailing world.   


The Manitoba Chapter of AO is truly humbled by this honour, and we thank the JNF, its volunteers, Dr. Gerald Niznick, community leaders and all donors for supporting our project, the construction of a much needed dental clinic for severely handicapped children, in Israel.      

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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