In May 2014, a group of social work faculty and students traveled to Israel for a week-long exchange course in International Child Welfare beginning the first year of what would become an annual program. The home base for this week-long exchange course is Hebrew University and the Haruv Institute, where faculty and student hosts create a transformative learning experience for their Oklahoma visitors. Each year students visit the Israeli Center for Medical Simulation (MSR), where each are directly involved in simulations related to child abuse and neglect. OU faculty observe, participate and learn about simulation to develop skills in the assessment of abuse.
Students and faculty visit several different types of social service agencies geared toward the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect. This includes Beit Lynn Tel Aviv and Beit Lynn Be’er Sheva, where students meet with child abuse assessment teams and learn about the role of social work on these teams. Both Beit Lynn teams work in a complex cultural context, including work with Bedouin cultures. Visits to an ultra-orthodox Jewish community provide students with an opportunity to consider interventions in a closed community and tailoring child abuse interventions to culture. The students learn of the benefits of residential care of severely abused children during a visit to a residential treatment facility in Abu Gosh. Collectively, these experiences motivate the students to plan their careers around improving Oklahoma’s system of care.
Other highlights of the course include a visit to the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, which expose students to possibilities of the dual role of child abuse intervention practitioner and system change agent. A tour of the Israel Museum provides exposure to important cultural artifacts and preservation of Jewish history as well as culture across the world. One of the most important and moving experiences is Yad Vashem. This Holocaust museum allows students and faculty to reflect on the sadness and brutality of the Holocaust while also reminding them of the great spirit and risks that many took, their perseverance and resilience and learning from the past.
The historic sites of the Old City and Mount of Olives, the delicious food and the student-to-student exchanges are all part of the cultural and learning experience. The other half of the exchange will occur each October, when Hebrew University faculty and students come to Oklahoma for their international course. Of course, all of these experiences would not be possible without the generosity of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. The school, faculty and students are deeply grateful for the experience.