Scheduled to run through January 5, the program plays a significant role in preparing the students for professional practice in the Jewish community.
The seminar also marks a strategic educational alliance of Yeshiva University, the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), Columbia University, NYU and the UJA-Federation, focused on developing the skills of Jewish communal professionals.
Led by Dr. Saul Andron, Associate Professor and the Hausman Chair in Communal Social Work at Yeshiva University's Wurzweiler School of Social Work, and Rebecca Grabiner, Director of the JTS Graduate School's Jewish Professional Leadership Program, the students are visiting locations around the country to examine Diaspora-Israel Relations, the social justice protest movement, as well as different models developed in Israel to respond to emergencies and trauma.
"Our goal is to paint the full picture for our students, to expose them to as wide a range of social, cultural and political developments as possible within the time allotted, allowing them to cultivate an understanding of each as individuals, social work and Jewish communal professionals, and caring and committed Jews," says Dr. Andron.
"It is important to us that the students come away from this experience with a deep appreciation of Israel's religiously and culturally diverse population, the many varied perspectives on Jewish and Israeli identity and the role for social workers in responding to emerging needs among vulnerable populations.
"But it is just as important that we help the students develop their own personal connections to the people and State of Israel."
The program – organized by the Israel Seminars JCC Association – includes students from Yeshiva University's Wurzweiler School of Social Work, JTS and Columbia University School of Social work and NYU School of Social Work, and is funded by Wurzweiler, JTS and in part by UJA-Federation of NY.
In addition to meeting with a collection of the country's most notable social work professionals and academic experts, and with the directors of many of the top social welfare organizations, the students are also spending several days with social work students enrolled in Tel Hai College and participate in a special emergency response field exercise.
The group also has the privilege of meeting with Ralph Goldman, the Joint Distribution Committee's honorary Executive Vice President and an icon of Jewish philanthropy and Jewish communal life in Israel.