Monday, November 30, 2009

Jewish Communal Service Students Attend GA, Hear Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, and Ram Emanuel, and Others

Sixteen Wurzweiler students attended the annual General Assembly of the Jewish Federation of North America in Washington, D.C. in mid-November alongside over 3,000 lay leaders and professionals from the US and around the world. The students heard prominent political figures from Israel and community leaders of Jewish organization, large and small, addressing issues vital to the Jewish community. Forum topics included:
  • Creative new fundraising techniques,

  • effective management of nonprofit agencies in an economic crisis,

  • advocacy strategies for Israel and human rights, service learning opportunities,

  • support for at-risk Jewish communities around the world,

  • and entrepreneurship and innovation in the Jewish community.

All these topics were filtered through the lens of the challenging economic realities facing the Jewish federation system today.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, speak about the Middle East peace process and his commitment to revive negotiations with Israel’s Arab neighbors and the Palestinians. Netanyahu emphasized three themes: creating a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, disarming Iran’s nuclear capabilities and reducing Israel’s oil dependency.

The delegates were also privileged to hear Foreign Minister Ehud Barak, Natan Sharansky, the recently elected Chairman of the Jewish Agency, and Ram Emanual, President Obama’s Chief of Staff. Each emphasized themes of Jewish unity, support for a secure and flourishing Israel, and the importance of the Jewish Federation in meeting the needs of Jewish communities locally, in Israel and around the world.

One of the most moving moments of the conference was the presentation by Torah for Troops, an organization dedicated to getting Torah scrolls to American soldiers on the front lines. Several members of the armed forces joined a sofer, a scribe, to recite a blessing and then complete a letter in the Torah scroll. This kosher Torah scroll is specially designed to be small, light-weight and portable so military chaplains are able to bring it to serve the religious needs of Jews serving in the armed forces in far-off bases around the world.

Thanks to Dr. Andron's planning, the students attended several private networking sessions including a lunch meeting with Wurzweiler alumni, who spoke about their Wurzweiler education and their careers in the Jewish Federation system.

Second year students incorporated their experiences at the General Assembly into their classroom learning through a unique learning collaboration with the Greater Washington DC Jewish Federation’s Leadership Development Department. They met with professional and lay leaders from the Federation to learn about the demographic profiles, interests, and needs of young Jewish adults. These students will analyze the data in order to to create a needs assessment questionnaire for the Jewish young adults in the Washington DC area.

The GA conference exceeded the expectations of many of the students and served as an invaluable learning and networking experience.

Thanks to Alizah David, guest editor, photograph by Robert A. Cumins

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

WSSW Prof Joan Beder is Indianapolis Star!

Dr. Joan Beder was quoted in an Indianapolis Star article about doctors forming partnershi[ps with lawyers in order to address patients' social and economic issues without impacting negatively on their health.

Read the article...

Monday, November 9, 2009

WSSW Prof, Rev Jerry Street Named 2010 Fellow by Connecticut Health Foundation

The Connecticut Health Foundation the state’s largest independent health philanthropy association, has announced its 2010 Health Leadership Fellows, and Rev. Jerry Street is one of the 22 Connecticut residents to recive this honor. According to Patricia Baker, the President and CEO of the foundation, each of the the Fellows possesses the qualities and experience necessary to effect changes in Connecticut's health systems that will improve the health of our state's residents.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Samuel Bronfman Foundation Hosts Seminar for JCS Students

On Wednesday, October 14, ten students from the Jewish Communal Service program attended a unique seminar on startups, innovation and social entrepreneurship in the Jewish community, hosted by the Samuel Bronfman Foundation and facilitated by a panel of experts in startups, innovations, social entrepreneurship and new giving in the Jewish community.

Students were joined by Dean Sheldon Gelman, Dr. Saul Andron, and Professor Lynn Levy, who teach in the Jewish Communal program, and board member, Joel Daner.

Speakers highlighted the growth of an array of small Jewish startups including innovative prayer and spirituality groups, cutting-edge cultural initiatives, and creative educational approaches.

Shawn Landres, Co-founder and CEO of Jumpstart, a Los Angeles based think tank, began the evening with a presentation called The Innovation Ecosystem: Emergence of a New Jewish Landscape (2009) a ground breaking report on grassroots Jewish philanthropic innovation, metrics for success, and partnerships to reduce cost.

Dana Raucher, Executive Director of the Samuel Bronfman Foundation, spoke about the foundation’s position on innovation in Jewish life and the strengthening of the Jewish not-for-profit sector. She presented a case example of the Foundation's funding of an innovative program initiative.

The final presentation of the evening was given by Maya Bernstein, Director of Education and Leadership Initiatives at Upstart Bay Area in San Francisco, California. Ms. Bernstein noted that the majority of Jews in the Bay area are not affiliated with traditional Jewish organizations like synagogues or JCCs. Young Jews in particular are seeking new, more intimate and creative ways to connect with different aspects of Jewish life. Her startup is providing technical assistance to the growing number of startup groups which have emerged in the San Francisco Bay area.

Thanks to guest editor, block student David English!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

WSSW Gets Grant to Fund Financial Literacy Curriculum

In response to the economic recession and high levels of unemployment and economic displacement, The New York Community Trust has provided a 20-month grant of $214,000 to six schools of social work which are part of the New York City Social Work Education Consortium.

The grant is to be used to train social workers to better assist families in economic distress. Specifically, the six schools of social work at Hunter College, Fordham University, Lehman College, Long Island University, Touro College, and Yeshiva University will collaboratively develop, test, and implement a financial literacy curriculum as part of their education of social work students.

The new knowledge and skills will be applied in field work settings throughout the metropolitan area. Professor Joanna Mellor will serve as Wurzweiler’s liaison to the project. Funds for the Trust’s grant are from the Harriett M. Bartlett Fund, the New York Critical Needs Fund, and the Oakey and Ethel Witherspoon Alexander Fund.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Strug & LaPorte to Discuss Research on "Pedro Pan" Refugees

Dr. David Strug, a professor at WSSW and Dr. Heidi Heft LaPorte, an associate professor at Lehman College, are conducting research on the Child Welfare Cuban Refugee Service Program, better known as Operation Peter Pan, or more commonly Operation Pedro Pan.

Operation Pedro Pan, run by the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare, sent more than 14,000 Cuban children to the United States as unaccompanied minors in 1961 and 1962. Among them were 400 Jewish children. Doctors Strug and LaPorte have interviewed close to 50 of these Jewish Cuban-American children, now in their fifties and sixties and living mostly in South Florida, to learn how this uprooting has affected their lives.

Strug and LaPorte will be talking about their research and interviews with former Peter Pan children at a conference sponsored by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research on November 2, 2009. The conference, entitled “New York and the American Jewish Experience,” will take place at the Center for Jewish History in NYC, at 15 W. 16th St. Click here for map and directions.

The conference is free and open to the public.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Deans Gelman & Hendricks Picked as "Pioneers of Social Work" by NASW

Wurzweiler's Dean Sheldon R. Gelman, and Associate Dean, Carmen Ortiz Hendricks have been named “Social Work Pioneers” by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).
NASW Pioneers are social workers who have explored new territories and built outposts for human services on many frontiers. Some are well known; others less famous outside their immediate colleagues and the region where they live and work. But each has made an important contribution to the social work profession and to social policies through service, teaching, writing, research, program development, administration, or legislation. (Read more about NASW Pioneers)
During his 19 years of service at Wurzweiler, Dean Gelman has hired prestigious faculty, strengthened academic standards, embraced new technology, and encouraged research-oriented practice. The results are evident in our top 50 ranking in US News and World Report, our recognition as having one of the most productive faculties of any social work school, and, most recently, our 2009 re-accreditation study by the Council on Social Work Education, where every aspect of the program received enthusiastic praise.

In addition to his outstanding work at Wurzweiler, Dean Gelman has published numerous articles in social work and social welfare policy journals and has contributed to The Encyclopedia of Social Work, The Social Workers’ Desk Reference and The Handbook of Human Services Management. Dean Gelman holds advanced degrees from the Heller School at Brandeis University and from Yale Law School.

Associate Dean Carmen Hendricks joined the Wurzweiler administration and faculty in July of 2005. She is a former president of the New York City Chapter of National Association of Social Workers, and is well-known for her in work culturally competent social work education and practice. As a member of NASW’s National Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity, she helped develop the Standards for Cultural Competence in the Social Work Practice. She is a founding member of the Latino Social Work Task Force. She has co-authored and edited seminal books in social worked education including, Learning to Teach—Teaching to Learn: A Guide to Social Work Field Education, Intersecting Child Welfare, Substance Abuse and Family Violence: Culturally Competent Approaches and Women of Color as Social Work Educators: Strengths and Survival.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New Book by Mason, Strug & Beder Examines Health Care in Cuba

Interest in the Cuban health care model has grown over the years and despite ongoing changes in Cuban society, the pride and satisfaction Cuban citizens take in their
health care system suggest that it will likely prevail in post-Castro Cuba. Susan E. Mason, David L. Strug, and Joan Beder have edited this collection of essays by contributors who are respected professionals in Cuba and the United States. Community Health Care in Cuba examines this closely integrated system in which community representatives, nurses, doctors, social workers, and other health care specialists work together to meet the health care needs of all Cuba's citizens. The collection features a first-hand look into the country's highly successful, integrated, and prevention-oriented health care model and includes interviews with the director of Cuba's National Medical Sciences Information Center (INFOMED) and the president of the Cuban Society of Social Workers in Health Care. Placing Cuba at the forefront as a model of international health care, this book illustrates how Cuba, despite its economic constraints, is able to deliver high-quality care to its citizens from a local to national level. (From the Lyceum website)

Click here for more about Community Health Care in Cuba
Click here to buy the book at

Click here to hear author David Strug on the radio show, Against the Grain, discussing how older Cubans feel about Castro's revolution.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pimpare to Receive Harrington Award for Latest Book

Stephen Pimpare, who teaches political science at Wurzweiler School of Social Work and Yeshiva College, will receive the Michael Harrington Book Award given by the New Political Science section of the American Political Science Association for his latest book, A People's History of Poverty in America. The Awards Committee wrote:
The future of the American welfare state has been an important topic for decades. Pimpare's work is an outstanding addition to the literature. The committee was impressed by the author's historically-grounded scholarship, the novelty of his approach and use of sources, and the eloquence of his exposition. Driven by deep commitments to social equality and justice, Pimpare's book contributes to the Michael Harrington tradition in powerful ways.
Dr. Pimpare will be presented the award on the evening of Saturday, September 5, in Toronto as part of the APSA conference.

Watch Dr. Pimpare being interviewed by Amy Goodman on the current state of poverty in America (a transcript is also provided.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

14 WSSW Students Graduate With Certificate in Jewish Communal Service

This spring 15 graduating students (May, 2009) completed the Certificate in Jewish Communal Services. Professors Saul Andron (program director) and Lynn Levy stand at the left and right of the group. Click here to learn more about this exciting program (pdf file).

WSSW Doctoral Student, Strauss, Honored by NY Academy of Medicine

The New York Academy of Medicine Section on Social Work held its first annual Student Night in April. The event honored students from 5 NYC schools of social work for their work in community health care. Wurzweiler’s doctoral student, Judy Strauss, was recognized for her research on Baby Boomers’ roles and attitudes towards menopause.

Judy Strauss, who successfully defended her dissertation this spring, joined students from NYU, Columbia, Fordham, and Lehman College in displaying posters of their work at a reception preceding the awards. The reception was followed by formal presentations by the honorees of their work to a crowd of deans, faculty, students, families and friends, and presentation of certificates. The students were also given a year’s free membership in the Social Work Fellows’ section of the Academy.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Two Wurzweiler Students are Children of the World Fellows

Two graduating Wurzweiler students, Erwich Cherry and Courtney Adams, are fellows with the Children of the World Community Program funded by the NYS Social Work Education Consortium and the New York Community Trust. The program provides services to densely populated immigrant communities in NYC. Six of the New York schools of social work participate in this program, sponsering 12 fellows in all.

The internships are provided in partnership with New York City's Administration for Children' s Service (ACS) in an attempt to decrease the number of new immigrants referred to NYC's Administration for Children's Services by increasing preventive services. An integral part of the fellowship includes a trip to Ghana. This "capstone" project was organized by the 12 fellows. Deans, directors, faculty, and administrators from ACS and the participating social work schools were all in attendance for the event. The presentation included a documentary about cultural awareness that the fellows created and a panel discussion describing their educational experience.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wurzweiler 1 of 15 Schools Selected for Hartford Foundation Grant!

Wurzweiler has received notification from the Council on Social Work Education Gero-Ed Center that it has been selected for participation in the Specialized Gerontology Program, funded by the John A. Hartford Foundation. Wurzweiler was one of 15 programs funded from a national pool of 46 proposals. The award, the third grant WSSW has received from the Hartford Foundation, is for $10,000 to be spent over two yearsto enhance gerontological studies at Wurzweiler. Dr Rozetta Wilmore–Schaffer is the lead faculty on this award.

Learn more about the John A. Hartford geriatric social work initiative...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wurzweiler Conference Tackles Crisis in Elder Health Care

Human service and legal professionals gathered in Weisberg Commons on May 1 to advocate for much needed changes in the delivery of health care on the local, state and national levels. “Navigating the Health Care Maze: At the Cusp of Change,” sponsored by Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Bronx Regional Interagency Council on Aging and Washington Heights/Inwood Interagency Council on Aging, was the seventh in a series of annual conferences on issues in aging organized by Wurzweiler and its planning partners.

The program began with a PowerPoint presentation by Evelyn Laureano ’05, PhD, executive director, Neighborhood Self-Help by Older Persons Project, Inc., highlighting comments and recurring experiences of older persons frustrated by the current health care system. After greetings from Wurzweiler Dean Sheldon R. Gelman, PhD, and alumnae Fern Hertzberg ‘87, MSW, executive director, ARC XVI, Washington Heights/Inwood Council on Aging, and Phyllis Erlbaum-Zur ‘03, PhD, director of admissions and discharge services, Jewish Home and Hospital Life Care System, the gathering was addressed by the panel of featured experts: Cardozo alumnus Martin Petroff, JD, Martin Petroff and Associates; Michealle Carpenter, JD, deputy policy director and counsel, Medicare Rights Center; Amy Bernstein, The LTC Insurance Resource Center, New York City Department for the Aging; Valerie Bogart, JD, director, Evelyn Frank Legal Resource Program at Self-Help Community Services, Inc.; and Michael Olender, associate state director, AARP.

Oleander stated:

We have a real opportunity to move ahead on health care reform with the White House following through on campaign promises regarding the ‘Divided We Fail’ platform and Congressional activity on such issues as Medicare/doctor reimbursement and funding for research.

The panel discussion was followed by workshops focusing on Medicare Part D, Medicaid Eligibility and Trusts, Medicaid and Long Term Care, Long Term Care Insurance, Mental Health Care System, and Managed Care and Communication. Joining panelists as workshop leaders were Betty Duggan, director of volunteer and community programs, Medicare Rights Center; Menahem Dimant, MD, Beth Abraham Family of Health Services; and Martha Sullivan, DSW, executive director, Fordham-Tremont Community Mental Health Center. Post-workshop speaker Mark Hannay of the Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign reported on city-wide efforts on behalf of universal health care reform in anticipation of the Congressional vote this fall. The presentations closed with Rosa Perla Resnick ‘76, PhD, of the United Nation’s NGO Committee on Ageing, who reported that the worldwide elderly population will approach two billion by 2050.

“I thought the conference was great. The workshops were extensive and well put-together,” said attendee Jose Lopez of the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

PBS NewsHour Features WSSW Grad, Cruz Rodriguez

On May 1, 2009, PBS NewsHour aired a segment about the new wave of not-for-profit agencies that provide loans and credit training for those with low incomes. Among the credit counselors interviewed: Cruz Rodriguez, MSW, who graduated Wurzweiler School of Social Work in July 2008. Cruz is currently employed by a not-for-profit called Credit Where Credit is Due. He made a mid-life change to professional social work aided by Wurzweiler's flexible class schedule (courses are offered on Sundays, and Tuesday and Thursday evenings) and a scholarship from the Latino Social Work Task Force.

To see Cruz in action, fast-forward to the 5.00 minute mark.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Doctoral Student Receives $40,000 Grant From American Cancer Society

Congratulations to Penny Damaskos, a doctoral candidate at Wurzweiler School of Social Work who recently received a $40,000, two-year grant from the American Cancer Society. The grant is meant to encourage researchers in the field of oncology social work. Ms. Damaskos has over fourteen years of experience in the field of oncology social work and currently runs the Post-Treatment Resource Program for cancer survivors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

For her dissertation, Ms. Damaskos hopes to examine the concept of resiliency in oncology social workers to better understand why people stay in the oncology field despite the high stress. She hopes the subject could have significant training implications both for the field and in practice arenas.

Ms. Damaskos first heard about the grant a few years ago while attending a conference of the Association of Oncology in Social Work. She was encouraged to apply for the grant by her colleague, and fellow Wurzweiler doctoral student, Louisa Daratsos. Louisa is also a recipient of the ACS Doctoral Studies Grant and provided support to Penny as she navigated through the application process.

Ms. Damaskos encourages students in Masters and Ph.D. studies who are interested in the field of oncology to apply for this grant. Those who are considering it will find that they are welcome and well-supported. Ms. Damaskos explains that the grant applicants can be at the beginning stages of their doctoral studies and still apply for this grant. It is important for the student to show commitment and the intent to serve in the oncology social work field. Since several WSSW students have already received the grant, the school has the infrastructure in place to make the application process a bit easier.

The Doctoral Training Grant is a two year grant with the possibility of extension for four years. It will help students cover the costs associated with research, tuition, attending relevant conferences and travel expenses.

Click here for more info about the grant.

Click here for Masters level funding.

Ms. Damaskos is also the co-author (with Page Tolbert) of 100 Questions and Answers about Life After Cancer: A Survivor's Guide.
(Thanks to guest editor, Aries Liao)

“Leadership today is all about taking on responsibility” President Joel Lunches with JCS Students

On April 1, 2009, President Richard Joel met with over 20 Jewish Communal Certificate students, several Wurzweiler faculty members, Dean Gelman and a Wurzweiler board member for a private luncheon in the presidential boardroom. Sitting around the conference table, President Joel engaged the students in a frank and honest exchange about current challenges facing Jewish nonprofits and Yeshiva University in sustaining their missions and program commitments in the face of the severe economic downturn. As President Joel addressed future leaders of the Jewish communal world in a lively question and answer format, discussion topics ranged from the meaning of leadership, the value of professional practice in communities outside of the tri-state area and the current challenges and new opportunities facing Jewish agencies. His remarks reflected a balance between a serious appraisal of today’s difficult economic realities and optimism for a brighter future for Jewish communal life with new and creative professional opportunities to make a real and lasting contribution.

President Joel described the way in which the nature of Jewish communal leadership has changed in the past few years. As he affirmed, “Leadership today is all about taking on responsibility.” The new generation of professional leaders has the responsibility to provide communities with the proper tools and resources to make choices for themselves. An education in social work practice along with knowledge of the Jewish community and its needs and changing organizational structure is a valuable combination of assets for the new generation of Jewish communal leaders. President Joel strongly emphasized the importance of having dedicated, passionate and skilled individuals with creative visions of vibrant Jewish life, in this field, and nods of agreement rippled across the boardroom.

Students of the Jewish communal track were enlightened and encouraged by the luncheon.

“It was such an honor to hear insight from such a predominant figure in the field of Jewish communal service. As an aspiring professional, I greatly appreciated the opportunity to hear from someone who has so much experience in the field,” commented Danielle Skurnick, a first year Wurzweiler student.

Chana Topek, a second year student, also reflected glowingly on the experience. "President Joel gave an uplifting and realistically positive perspective for our future as individuals involved in Jewish leadership.”
(Thanks to Adena Stern, guest editor.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wurzweiler awarded $550,000 Child Welfare Training Grant

Wurzweiler School of Social Work was the only New York school selected for a half million dollar grant from the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute in collaboration with the U.S. Children’s Bureau. This new child welfare training initiative will extend over five years and includes scholarship support and curricular innovations.

Wurzweiler will select 12 Child Protective Service workers each year from the New York City Children’s Services (NYCCS) as full-time graduate students who will complete a curriculum infused with child welfare content and enrichment seminars leading to a new Certificate in Child Welfare Practice (CCWP).

Scholarship recipients will be expected to demonstrate a commitment to culturally competent child welfare practice with Hispanic communities. Other Wurzweiler students committed to child welfare and serving Hispanic families in New York City will also be eligible to participate in this special certificate program. Wurzweiler hopes that this grant will further enhance its affiliation with NYC Children’s Services and their Satterwhite Training Academy. The What's New Blog congratulates the Wurzweiler faculty for their on-going efforts to promote excellence in child welfare practice.
(Thanks to Carmen Hendricks, Assoc. Dean, for this post.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

WSSW Prof Pimpare Discusses Poverty on GRITTV

On March 25, internet personality Laura Flanders interviewed Wurzweiler Proff Stephen Pimpare about his new book, A People's History of Poverty, which was published on November 17 by the New Press, as part of an American history series edited by Howard Zinn.

Here's how Flanders introduced the segment:
The Unites States has historically done a pretty bad job of taking care of its poor. And the record, in the last few decades, has only gotten worse. Before Obama entered office we spoke to Stephen Pimpare, the author of A People's History of Poverty in America. He had high hopes for Obama at the time. What would he say after the first few months?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

WSSW Common Day Explores Economic Crisis

On Wednesday, March 18th, Wurzweiler School of Social Work's faculty and students joined together for their annual Common Day to explore the topic of Hope in the Midst of Crisis: Social Work in Action.

Common Day is a collaborative effort between a committee of faculty and student members that was created over 7 years ago in response to 9/11 as a means of furthering a sense of community at Wurzweiler during a time of collective crisis. Today, Common Day maintains its commitment to community-building by bringing social issues of common concern to the awareness of both the faculty and student body. This year, the topic focused on the profound impact the financial crisis in America is having on the clients and the communities that social workers serve.

Students viewed a short excerpt from "60 Minutes" that highlighted the experience of a company in Wilmington, Ohio, that employed most of the townspeople, and had to begin laying them off. This was followed with in-depth table discussions between faculty and students involving analysis, brainstorming, and policy planning.

Common Day will be followed by a day of social action to benefit the community of Washington Heights. More about this to come.
(Thanks to Lynn Levy & CBS News)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ceremonial Violence is Topic for Toronto Alum Bookgroup

Professor Jonathan Fast and Alumni Coordinator Mark Miller traveled to Canada on March 8th to speak to WSSW Toronto alumnae who have started a social work themed book-group. Gracious hosts Roslyn Schultz, Class of '72, and her husband, Ben, offered their home as a meeting place, refreshments, and a welcoming atmosphere. Dr. Fast read from his new book, Ceremonial Violence, The Psychological Explanation of School Shootings, and led a lively discussion.

Toronto alums who are interested in socializing with other like-minded graduates, joining the book-group, or just bringing us up to date on their activities are invited to contact Mark at (212) 813-0572 or email him at

Friday, March 13, 2009

JQYouth Panel Speaks at Lunch-and-Learn

On Wednesday, March 4, Wurzweiler's Student Goverment brought back JQYouth for a lunch and learn program. JQYouth are a social/support group made up of Orthodox gay, bi, trans and lesbian Jews between the ages of 17 and 30.
In addition to providing information about their backgrounds and experiences as gay Orthodox Jews (in particular their experiences of "coming-out" to their families and friends,) the presenters discussed therapeutic strategies for working with gay individuals.
(Thanks to Jay Sweifach)

Food Drive Big Success -- Donations Still Needed!

The WSSW food-bank, the work of our social action committee, continues to thrive. We have already distributed more than 16 boxes of food to the Washington Heights community. This project will continue throughout the semester and all donations of non-spoilable foods and toiletries are welcomed.

Please drop off off food and toiletries in boxes located on the 8th and 9th floors of Belfer Hall.

A special thank you to those of you who have already generously given to this food drive!

--The Social Action Committee
(Catherine Cassidy, guest editor & photographer)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Jobs in Social work: Wurzweiler School of Social Work Hosts Informational Panel

Like everyone else in today's troubled economy, students at Wurzweiler School of Social Work are wondering about their job opportunities.

On Wednesday, February 25th, Wurzweiler hosted an informational panel with representatives from six social service agencies that serve clients in the metropolitan New York area:
The panel was very well attended. Students learned how they can market themselves in a challenging environment. The panelists offered 'straight' talk that included some helpful hints about how to be flexible in this market and how to utilize their skills to re-envision their roles in the workplace. The agencies all reported that they would be hiring and accepted resumes from many grateful students.
(Thanks to guest editor, Lynn Levy)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Palliative Care Leadership Conference at Wurzweiler

On December 5, 2008, Wurzweiler convened a half-day conference on “Social Work in Hospice and Palliative Care: The Emerging Landscape.” One hundred fifty social work practitioners and students joined us for the first New York-region conference dedicated to the growing roles of social workers in palliative care.

Coordinated by Gary Stein, JD, MSW, Associate Professor at Wurzweiler, and Grace Christ, DSW, Professor at Columbia School of Social Work, the program examined this newly developing practice arena for social workers. Panels explored the state-of-the art in practice, highlighted by observations from Frances Heller, MSW and WSSW alumnus, a member of New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center’s palliative care team. Other speakers explored policy developments, such as the new palliative care credential, a joint project of NASW and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization; and the recent federal regulations for hospice social work. Researchers focused on innovative findings – challenges faced by family decision-makers and their needs for professional support, cross-cultural concerns, and experiences of caregivers in families with histories of physical or sexual abuse.

The program showcased the new Social Work in Hospice and Palliative Care Network (, a national professional association seeking to advance a social work agenda for palliative care that is led by the conference coordinators. SWHPN is sponsoring a one-day program on March 25, 2009 at the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine’s annual conference in Austin, Texas. Building on the themes from the Wurzweiler meeting, the Austin program will include panels promoting social work leadership, ethical practices, evidence-based approaches, and family conferencing skills. More information on this program can be found at

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

4 WSSW Students Attend Graduate Seminar in Israel

Four Wurzweiler MSW/Jewish Communal Service students joined six other graduate students from Columbia University and NYU on an intensive ten-day seminar to Israel this January. The students were offered a unique study program to learn first-hand about Israel’s social services system and the challenges Israel faces in delivering an array of services to its most vulnerable and embattled populations. The seminar, coordinated by Lyn Light Geller of UJA-Federation and Professor Saul Andron, also delved into the changing roles of the voluntary and government sectors in Israel, evolving models of relationships between Israel and Diaspora communities and the implications of declining Diaspora philanthropy to meet human needs of the Israeli population.

The seminar fell right in the midst of the Gaza War taking place in the south of Israel. Though Jerusalem was quiet, and the group was relatively far from the front, the students met with representatives of key agencies responding to the emergency needs facing the civilian population in the battle zone. Special sessions were arranged with senior professionals of the Israel Trauma Coalition, a coordinating agency launched by the UJA-Federation of New York, which was actively engaged in mobilizing professional and volunteer assistance to the civilian population in the south. Other organizations, such as Yididim, an organization for immigrant at risk children, with service centers in the south, had implemented innovative and creative strategies to continue service to their various client groups. The group also had the privilege to go to the Avi Chai Foundation facility in Jerusalem where a special day of fun activities and a concert with some of Israel’s top music stars, was organized for residents from the south. These children, parents and teachers were bussed to Jerusalem for one precious day to get away from the constant shell fire, the sheer terror and fear of being in a war zone to relax and enjoy, to smile, and to know they were not forsaken.

Seminar participants agreed that this was a particularly poignant and emotional time for them which brought home the horrors of war and constant conflict. Maureen Melcer, Wurzweiler PEP student, remarked that "the unique experiences this trip offered gave me a new appreciation for Israel. Being in Israel during a time of great political unrest and seeing first hand the ways in which this young country mobilizes itself to take care of its people during a crisis is truly inspiring. I walked away from the trip with new friends, colleagues, and a renewed sense of pride for my work in the Jewish community."

During the seminar the students visited many social service and advocacy agencies, interacted with an array of clients, non-profit agency professionals and academic experts, and tackled a plethora of issues and topics facing the not-for-profit sector in Israel today. Site visits to the Jerusalem Battered Women’s Shelter, Jaffa Institute for underprivileged children, Amcha, a support center for Holocaust survivors, numerous programs for youth at risk, and absorption programs targeting young and adult Ethiopian immigrants, helped to enlighten the students about service strategies to meet needs of specific target groups. Seminar sessions, both formal presentations and site visits, exposed the students to the distinct and sometimes overlapping roles and services of the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC Israel) and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), the two funding partner agencies in Israel of North American Jewish federations.

Sessions with knowledgeable and veteran non-profit sector and Jewish community experts were particularly illuminating. These included meetings with Dr. Jack Habib, director of the JDC Myers Brookdale Institute; Dr. Hillel Schmid, director of the Hebrew University Center for the Study of Philanthropy in Israel; Avraham Infeld, former Executive Director of the Chase Family Foundation in Israel and seasoned Jewish/Zionist educator; and Ralph Goldman, outstanding long-time member of the American and International Jewish community and honorary Executive Vice-President of JDC. Their dynamic presentations created a picture of the evolving not-for-profit sector in Israel, the changing dynamics of American and Israeli-based philanthropy, the growing privatization of human services delivery in Israel and the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead for Jewish communal professionals.

The seminar to Israel stimulated many questions among participants and challenged them to grapple with issues concerning the connection between Diaspora Jews and Israel, the new challenges of Jewish peoplehood and the changing roles of Jewish communal professionals in relation to Israel. The experience provided insight and guidance into the workings of the Jewish communal field, and especially to social work practice, and how to implement such a knowledge base into our own future work. Matt Dunn, Wurzweiler Concurrent student, remarked that “as a result of the mission, I have a more well rounded knowledge base regarding the social issues within Israeli society. Learning and interacting with other students in Israel is an experience that every student should have.”

Thanks to Jeana Beneson, WSSW student, for authoring this web post.