Yeshiva University News » Social Work

Wurzweiler’s Block Program Offers Israelis Cutting-Edge Social Work Education

As a high school English teacher in Jerusalem, Rivkah Weiss found students frequently turned to her for advice and guidance. But although she loved helping them navigate the personal challenges they faced, Weiss was frustrated by the sense that she could only do so much for them. “I felt like I was limited in my capacity to help them and had this strong desire to further develop my skillset so I could expand my work in this area,” she said.

2014 graduates of the Israel Block Program, left to right: Amikam Schweber, Zvia Altar and Yehuda Ish Shalom

2014 graduates of the Israel Block Program, left to right: Amikam Schweber, Zvia Altar and Yehuda Ish Shalom

Weiss decided to begin her master’s degree in social work at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work’s Block Program in Israel. Consisting of three summers of formal classroom social work education at Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus in New York City and two years of supervised field experience in Israel, the program is designed to enable aspiring Israeli social workers to gain cutting-edge training without having to relocate.

“The Block Program allowed me to remain in Israel where I live throughout the year and at the same time complete my studies in three summers,” said Weiss. “Wurzweiler and the Block Program particularly are known for their high academic standards and success rate in terms of job placements, and my fellow students and I also became a very close-knit group of religious and secular Israeli, American and Canadian men and women.”

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$1.4 Million Grant Will Train Students to Work With Vulnerable Youth  

Drug abuse, multiple trauma experiences, underachievement and a 10 percent high school dropout rate are just some of the problems faced by adolescents growing up in high-risk environments, often leading to mental health disorders that need to be addressed. A new grant awarded to the Wurzweiler School of Social Work aims to boost the number of social workers trained to work with these vulnerable adolescents.

Dr. Ronnie Glassman

Wurzweiler’s Dr. Ronnie Glassman is the principal investigator for a $1.4 million grant that will train students to work with high-risk youth

Wurzweiler recently received a $1.4 million training grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services to fund over 100 social work students in clinical field placements with at-risk youth in New York City over a three-year period.

“The primary purpose of the project is to increase the number of social workers with strong clinical competencies who will work with adolescents and transitional-age youth at risk for developing or who have developed a recognized behavioral health disorder,” said Dr. Ronnie Glassman, Wurzweiler’s director of field instruction and the principal investigator for the grant. “This will be accomplished by the creation of increased social work clinical internships.”

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Wurzweiler’s Susan Bendor to Retire in January After Five Decades Dedicated to Social Work 

Over half a century after she began her career as a social worker, Dr. Susan Bendor will retire in January, capping off 26 years at Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work and a remarkable 52 years in the field.

Dr. Susan Bendor

Wurzweiler’s Dr. Susan Bendor has dedicated her career to helping others.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, Bendor survived the Holocaust as a young child by hiding in a cellar for nine months. By the time she was 21, she had lived in six countries—Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, Canada, Israel and Germany—and by 25, she had earned her master’s degree. Her interest in social work can be traced back to her family’s early years in Canada.

“Thanks to a wonderful hospital social worker who helped our immigrant family through a very rough crisis and lightened the burden on our young shoulders, giving all of us a sense of hope, I realized how important and satisfying it must be to make such a difference in the lives of families coping with a variety of challenges beyond their control,” said Bendor. “I decided to follow in his footsteps. It was a privilege to enter a profession that is committed to social justice and to treating everyone with dignity, as were the individuals who saved our lives during World War II and continue to inspire me even today.” Read the rest of this entry…

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School of Social Work Pays Tribute to Faculty Member’s 47-Year Career

In 1958, newly-ordained Rabbi Norman Linzer decided to do something different with the semicha he had just received from Yeshiva University-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS).

Rather than lead a congregation, Linzer wanted to pursue a career in Jewish communal work. So he turned to YU’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work, which had opened its doors the year before, to pursue a degree that would equip him with all the right tools to accomplish his dream.

Linzer has been there ever since.

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Graduate Profile: Savyon Lang, Wurzweiler School of Social Work

A common spirit runs throughout Yeshiva University: the mandate to matter.

Students of all ages and backgrounds come here to pursue a range of professional and personal dreams, from scientific research and medicine to law, Jewish education or public policy. Our students seek to harness their unique talents and YU education to make a lasting impact on the world around them. This spring, when they graduate from YU, these new alumni will hit the ground running.

In the weeks leading up to CommencementYU News will feature one remarkable graduate from each school, reflecting, in their own words, on their time here, their passions and their dreams for the future.

Meet the Class of 2013.

Savyon Lang

Wurzweiler’s Savyon Lang hopes to use her personal experiences to assist the deaf and hard of hearing communities.

Name: Savyon Lang

Hometown: Somers, NY

School: Wurzweiler School of Social Work

Passion: Supporting deaf and hard of hearing populations

How did you decide to go into social work?

My sister and I are hard of hearing. All my life, people have been fighting to ensure that our needs are met—speech therapists, speech pathologists, audiologists, special education teachers, my mom and dad. Even my hearing brother learned Cued Speech, a phonemically-based hand supplement to language, to better communicate with my sister and me. I have been touched by the love, acceptance, help and care I have been shown and really felt that I needed to give back as well. Read the rest of this entry…


Seminar Led by Wurzweiler’s Saul Andron Explores Social and Political Realities of Israeli Life

Ten outstanding social work students from select New York-based graduate programs have arrived in Israel to participate in a unique seminar that will explore the social and political realities of life in Israel. Scheduled to run through January 5, the program will play a significant role in preparing the students for professional practice in the Jewish community.

Saul Andron

Wurzweiler's Dr. Saul Andron will help lead the unique seminar.

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 YU’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work, and Rebecca Grabiner, director of the JTS Graduate School’s Jewish Professional Leadership Program, the students will visit locations around the country to examine Diaspora-Israel Relations, the Tzedek Hevrati 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,” said 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 Wurzweiler, JTS, 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 will also spend several days with social work students enrolled in Tel Hai College and participate in a special emergency response field exercise.  The group will also have 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.


Studying Community Organization, Wurzweiler Class Examines Occupy Wall Street Firsthand

Two weeks ago, a class from Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work traveled to Lower Manhattan to observe the organizational structure and leadership dynamics of the Occupy Wall Street movement in Zuccotti Park.

Dr. Saul Andron

Dr. Saul Andron's class is studying the organizational structure of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Instructed by Associate Professor Dr. Saul Andron, the Hausman Chair in Communal Social Work, the community social work course of second year students jumped at the opportunity to witness firsthand the organization of the protests on the ground and get a sense of its strategies and tactics and successes to date, as well as the challenges facing this social movement going forward.

From art and history courses visiting museums to scientific collaboration with other research institutions, the outing served as one of the many examples of a Yeshiva University class maximizing its setting in New York by using the city as a real-time learning laboratory to complement class instruction and course material.

Occupy Wall Street“We are learning about social work from the macro practice perspective, specifically dealing with communities, neighborhoods and organizations,” said Dr. Andron at a recent class debriefing on their Lower Manhattan excursion. “We together felt that it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. We needed to check out Occupy Wall Street.”

The intricacies of the protesters’ organizational structures proved especially intriguing to the aspiring social workers. They spent their debriefing class dissecting all of the moving parts of the ongoing protests and applied concepts of community organization to better understand the developments on the ground. One student expressed amazement at the sanitation and food distribution operations. Another pondered over how the protestors managed their funds. Finally, the class emphasized and marveled at how the movement brought together disparate groups of people around a common cause.

One student, Melanie Goldberg, greatly appreciated her experience at the protests. “It was great to see so many of the concepts we are learning in class actually employed in the world,” she said. “We are learning about mobilizing locals and how to teach people to use their voice. To see that first-hand offered a great real world scenario to what we are learning in class.”

Occupy Wall Street organizers set up a makeshift library at Zuccotti Park.

Organizers set up a makeshift library at Zuccotti Park.

Her classmate, Alice Blass, pointed out the connection between what she learned from the atmosphere of the protest and the discipline of social work. “One thing we always discuss is that it is important for people to find their voice and be able to express themselves in a way that will yield positive results. This is what we saw in Zuccotti Park.”

The tour of the protests was just one of many experiential and hands-on classes conducted by Dr. Andron and other Wurzeiler faculty. In the past, he has brought students to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to help rebuild homes in communities destroyed by the devastation and to the annual General Assembly of The Jewish Federations of North America to expose his students to innovative Jewish communal structures and program models.

With his passion for experiential learning and the enthusiasm of his students for further studying the Occupy Wall Street protests, Dr. Andron hopes to return to Lower Manhattan with his class to examine the development of this movement unfolding in Yeshiva University’s backyard.


Wurzweiler Conference Highlights Opportunities and Challenges for Palliative Care Social Work

On March 25, 2011, the Wurzweiler School of Social Work and the Social Work Hospice & Palliative Care Network (SWHPN) co-hosted Innovations in Palliative Care Social Work: Emerging Models, Effective Strategies. The conference was also co-sponsored by Columbia and New York University’s Schools of Social Work.  Attended by approximately 185 students and professionals, the conference featured keynote addresses by Dame Barbara Monroe, executive director of St. Christopher’s Hospice in London, and award winning health columnist and author Jane Brody. Panelists included experts in hospital and community-based palliative social work and psychosocial care for patients and families. The conference was directed by Gary Stein, associate professor at Wurzweiler; and Grace Christ, professor at Columbia University School of Social Work. Drs. Stein and Christ serve as vice chair and chair, respectively, of the Social Work Hospice and Palliative Care Network. Read full article here…


Apr 29, 2009 — Wurzweiler School of Social Work was the only New York school selected for a $550,000 grant from the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute in collaboration with the US Children’s Bureau. The grant, extended over five years, will support scholarships and curricular innovations in the area of child welfare training.

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 the NYCCS and its Satterwhite Training Academy.


Gary Stein, associate professor at Wurzweiler School of Social Work, organized the conference.

Dec 12, 2008 — When a hospital team confers with terminally ill patients and their loved ones, the discussion may trigger personal anxieties and questions: Is hospice care possible? Can the patient remain at home with pain management and support from a social worker? What about “do not resuscitate” orders or removal of feeding tubes?

“Health care professionals sometimes fail to communicate effective end-of-life care options or provide needed support for patients and families,” says Gary Stein, associate professor at Wurzweiler School of Social Work and a co-founder of the Social Work Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, a professional group that calls for the advancement of the social worker’s role in assisting seriously ill individuals and their supporters with decision making and quality-of-life issues.

“Social workers help ensure that both the patient’s and family’s psychosocial and emotional needs are being met,” Stein said.

As part this advocacy, Wurzweiler recently hosted “Social Work in Hospice and Palliative Care: The Emerging Landscape,” a first-time conference exploring the role social workers can play as part of an interdisciplinary palliative care team.

The event, held at the Moot Court Room at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, was co-sponsored by Wurzweiler, the Palliative Care Organization, the Center for Ethics at Yeshiva University and Columbia University School of Social Work, another Network member.

“This is the first of what we hope will be many programs on palliative care,” said Dr. Sheldon R. Gelman, Wurzweiler’s Dorothy and David I. Schachne Dean, in his greeting to a room filled with academics, students, professionals and guest panelists from around the country.

The conference’s three panels focused on “Evolving Opportunities and Challenges for Social Workers in Hospice and Palliative Care,” “Professional Roles, Team Perspectives,” and “Family Perspectives: A Case Approach.”

“We hope we can encourage new dialogue among social work education programs and hospice and palliative care professionals on the role social workers play in the field,” Stein says. “There is a practical need to look at outcomes: that social workers improve care and deliver services in a cost-effective way. I especially hope that we can train social workers for this field.”