Cultural Competence in the Workplace

Celebrating a Decade of Cultural Competency: New Practical Uses for Old Traditions: The Ethiopian Case

It’s incredible that we’ve been leading efforts to increase cultural competency for the past 10 years. To celebrate, as we’ve described here and here, we’re hosting a series of lectures in partnership with the ALYN Rehabilitative Hospital and the Jerusalem Foundation. The latest lecture was on Monday, October 15, 2018. In honor of the upcoming Sigd Holiday, which will take place on November 7, the lecture focused on the source of the holiday, and enabled a closer look at different traditions that the Ethiopian community in Israel brings to society. This community had been disconnected from the rest of the Jewish world for more than 2,000 years until coming to Israel, and still preserves its ancient traditions while also developing new ones.

Yuvi lecturing

Yuvi lecturing

The lecturer was Ms. Yuvi Tashome-Katz, who was born in Ethiopia and came to Israel via Sudan. Today Yuvi is a social entrepreneur and activist, with twenty years’ experience in community work and counseling, and today is a member of the southern city of Gadera’s city council. In recognition of her social activities, Yuvi was chosen to light one of the ceremonial torches on the 2011 Independence Day celebrations. Later that year she was awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for Initiatives and Innovation and the Matanel Prize for Groundbreaking Leadership.   

Lecturing to a full house

Lecturing to a full house

In addition to the Sigd holiday, Yuvi spoke about how women learned about womanhood and parenting from the ‘Women’s House’ – a place women stayed during ‘menstruation holiday,’ as well as for 40 days after birth. From a young age teenagers were shown how to care for babies, nursing, and more. Children were taught to strengthen their abilities, and tasks around the house and in the fields were assigned according to their abilities. In addition, information about medicinal herbs, nutrition and other health-related issues was passed along orally from one to another.

ALYN’s lecture hall was full to the gills, and the 50 members of the audience had a fascinating lecture. The participants were impressed by the sheer amount of knowledge the Ethiopian elders had, and how much knowledge Israeli society missed out on. Participants were enthusiastic to invite Yuvi back, to help them better understand how this knowledge can help the therapeutic process.

Many thanks to Yuvi, to ALYN, and of course, to the Jerusalem Foundation for its ongoing support of cultural competency since its inception!

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Celebrating a Decade of Cultural Competence – Third Lecture in a Series

We’ve reported here about Cultural Competency’s 10th anniversary year, which we’re celebrating with a series of lectures at the ALYN Rehabilitative Hospital. On Monday, June 25 we heard the third lecture, by Mr. Kassim Baddarni, Director of the El-Taj organization that advocates for Muslim patients.

The Muslim Patient

Mr. Kassim Baddarni, The Muslim Patient

In his lecture entitled, “Care for the Muslim Patient – between Competence and Apathy.” He spoke about cultural, linguistic and religious principles that affect care for Muslim patients, and what they require for the most effective care. He also spoke about what is permitted and forbidden in medical care according to Islam. These can be divided into 4 principles:

  1. The need cancels out the prohibition. Thus, for example, it’s permissible to get insulin shots or take medication that contains alcohol (which is usually forbidden in Islam), since these treatments are irreplaceable.
  2. Abstention from anything that harms the body physically or emotionally, such as smoking or any other risk factor.
  3. When faced with a situation that presents two acts that are generally forbidden under Islam, one should choose the act that does less harm, such as an abortion that aims to save the mother’s life.
  4. The public good comes before personal benefit. Thus, giving blood and donating organs are allowed and encouraged.

Many thanks to ALYN for being the trailblazers of Cultural Competency a decade ago, and for the use of their space this year. And of course many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their strategic partnership in Cultural Competency since the conception of the program.

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Celebrating a Decade of Cultural Competence

It’s really been 10 years, a decade since we began our Cultural Competency project in the health system. In March 2008 we held what turned out to be the first conference on  Cultural Competency at the ALYN Rehabilitative Hospital. In the 10 years since, we, and ALYN, have been trailblazers in cultural competency in Israel. ALYN was the first hospital to strive for full cultural competence on an everyday level, and we have become national leaders in cultural competency not only in the health care system, but in a range of different areas – from the work place to welfare and other municipal departments.

Dr. Maurit Be'ere and Daud Alian, addressing the first lecture celebrating a decade of Cultural Competency

Dr. Maurit Be’ere and Daud Alian, addressing the first lecture celebrating a decade of Cultural Competency

We decided to celebrate this accomplishment with a series of lectures on Cultural  Competency. The first focused on a lecture by Daud Alian, Director of the Atta’a Assistance Center for the Rights of Palestinian East Jerusalem Residents, on accessibility of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem to health, welfare and education services.

The audience, listening attentively

The audience, listening attentively

ALYN’s lecture hall was full. Dr. Adit Dayan, Director of Community Projects from the Jerusalem Foundation, our strategic partner in Cultural Competency since its inception, opened the conference, along with Dr. Maurit Be’ere, Director of ALYN and the person responsible for bring cultural competency to the hospital, and Tal Cohen, who today is the coordinator for cultural competence at ALYN.

We can’t thank the Jerusalem Foundation enough for their partnership over the years.

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Cultural Competency on the Light Rail

It’s been said that Jerusalem’s light rail is one of its prime examples of multiculturalism.

Citypass, a model of multiculturalism

Citypass, a model of multiculturalism

The Citypass company, which operates the Jerusalem light rail, has become an important partner in working to improve tolerance in and around the light rail, including the Tolerance Station outside the Municipality, our Building Jerusalem with Lego stop on Jerusalemite Day, to Tolerance Traing-based tours during the Jerusalem Tolerance Week. But one of their most important initiatives was the series of cultural competency workshops that we ran throughout November 2017 for their 7 customer service representatives.

That is when tensions are high, and it comes out in the conversations the customer service representatives have.

The Customer Service desk

The Customer Service desk

It’s not easy working in customer service, since they are the ones dealing with people who’ve been fined or have complaints. When tensions are high, politeness takes a back burner. “We deal with things like, ‘That dirty/smelly/ stupid Ethiopian ticket checker gave me a fine'” said one of the workers. “How do you respond to that?”

In the workshops, the workers learned how to respond to these and other comments that are based on stereotypes. The training included principles of interpersonal communication that deflects tension-ridden comments.

During one of the four training sessions

During one of the four training sessions

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for its continued support of Cultural Competency since its inception in 2008.

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Cultural Competency team and Santé Israël at National Ministry of Health Conference

On December 4, Santé Israël and our Cultural Competency team participated in the annual Ministry of Health conference on “Inequality in Health Care.” This was an excellent opportunity to advance and provide information about the number of different areas we work in.

Learning from Wisdom of Experience

Learning from Wisdom of Experience

In preparation for this conference we collected and published all 7 Wisdom of Experience newsletters into a brochure. Today this includes:

We also distributed Santé Israël flyers, as well as information about our new workshops on health and Haredim.

JICC helping to close gaps in health care in Israel

JICC helping to close gaps in health care in Israel

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their ongoing support of the Cultural Competency project since its inception. Many thanks to the Pharmadom and Rashi Foundations for their continued support of Santé Israël.

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Continuing Cultural Competency Training at the Municipal Welfare Department

As difficult as it is, one of our overarching goals is to make Jerusalem a culturally competent city. This also includes, of course, entire Jerusalem Municipality culturally competent. You can read here about our initial training for workers in the welfare department. We’ve just finished a Training the Trainers course for 10 Welfare Department workers, who join the 15  graduates of the first cohort, which took place in November – December of 2016. This 4-session course enabled participants to conduct cultural competency workshops for the entire Welfare Department.

Community Service Department

Community Service Department

Participants learned how to lead cultural competency training, including, of course, the main principles of cultural competency. We covered a number of cultural and ethnicity-based issues that welfare department professionals encounter on a regular basis. Through discussions and special videos that we developed for the course, we introduced a number of case studies. Participants then learned from these case studies and evaluated them so they could use them in their work.

They will also be in charge of assimilating these principles throughout the year.

Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their continuing support of the cultural competency project in Jerusalem.
And here’s the post in Hebrew of the first meeting:

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Experts in the Field, Writing the Manual – Cultural Competence in Community Work

We’re proud to announce the publication of a new manual, Cultural Competence in Community Work, that was recently published under the auspices of the Israel Ministry of Welfare. Our director, Dr. Hagai Agmon-Snir and Dr. Orna Shemer co-authored the manual, which is available in Hebrew. You can download a copy here.

Cultural Competence in Community Work manual

Cultural Competence in Community Work manual

It seems to be the first extensive manual of cultural competence in community organizing / building / development, including some novel community approaches that are specifically useful for diverse communities. The 150-page manual covers a wide range of the many aspects associated with cultural competency and community work. It discusses the principles from 5 different angles – focusing on the personal – individual worker, on the professional, on the organization, on the community, on the public sphere. And it offers suggested methods in how to work with people from different cultures. Just like the Manual for Integrating Cultural Competency in Health Care Organizations that was published in 2015 (the Hebrew version is here), and the video units, we expect this to be the source of information for cultural competency in community work.

We would like to thank the Israel Ministry of Welfare and Bruce (Baruch) Sugarman, the Director of the Community Work Service at the Ministry, for publishing this manual and hope that it will be helpful to workers and activists in many communities.

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2016 – What a Year!

As we jump head-first into 2017, we wanted to take a minute to reflect on 2016, and what a year it’s been! Overall, a year of unprecedented growth and development, and we can’t wait to get started in 2017. Here are some highlights:

Cultural Competence

  • The Jerusalem as a Culturally Competent City conference in May 2016, organized jointly by the JICC and the Jerusalem Foundation as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations, was a turning point for the JICC. Attended by hundreds of professionals, from Jerusalem and throughout Israel, the conference presented strides that have been made over the past 10 years, and set the stage for the next step of meeting diverse residents’ diverse needs, in all areas of life.
  • Continued work in the health care system, in Jerusalem and as a model throughout Israel, training in-house coordinators and facilitators to increase sustainability and adaptability within individual institutions. For the first time, work included a national network of hospitals and clinics.
  • Expansive work in the Israel Police Force, reaching most police stations and present and future commanding officials, and continuing to expand training in 2017.
  • Groundbreaking work with the National Insurance Institute (NII), East Jerusalem branch, the first NII branch in the country to undergo a process of cultural competence.
  • In the Jerusalem Municipality, the entire Community Services Administration, which includes welfare, public health, immigrant absorption, and more, is undergoing training, as well as the Auditor’s Office which will be able to look at the entire Municipality’s operations through the prism of cultural competency and sensitivity.
  • Santé Israël, the first web site to make Israel’s health care system accessible to French speakers, celebrated its first birthday. 
Ms. Uzma Shakir, Keynote Speaker

Ms. Uzma Shakir, Keynote Speaker, Jerusalem as a Culturally Competent City conference

Paramedical Professionals

Making healthcare practitioner exams accessible to Arab residents of east Jerusalem

2016 was an important year for us to take stock of the past four years of this program. Our conclusions show that:

  • The number of certified Arab paramedical professionals in East Jerusalem has grown significantly.
  • The program has enabled the JICC to more clearly map the situation of different paramedical professions in east Jerusalem, contributing to the knowledge of training in the Jerusalem area.
  • The awareness both among Palestinian institutes of higher education and health care institutions in east Jerusalem as well as Israeli Ministry of Health has been raised significantly.
  • A large window of opportunity for Arab women paramedical professionals to improve economic opportunities has been opened.

Nurses studying to pass their Israeli certification examinations

Talking Coexistence – Arabic Language Instruction

Both 2015 – 2016 and 2016 – 2017 broke enrollment records. In 2015-16 there were 180 students in 12 classes, over 5 levels. In 2016-2017, there are 240 students in 16 classes, also over 5 levels. We also held several cultural evenings to enrich students’ understanding of Arabic culture. Here’s a short video about the program:

Atta’a Assistance Center for the Rights of East Jerusalem Residents

The Atta’a Center has been in existence since 2004, and in 2015 it came under the aegis of the JICC. In 2016 we have seen:

  • 70% growth in number of requests
  • Ballooning of its Facebook page to over 7,100 ‘likes,’ and launching of its web site.
  • Publication of a widely-referenced booklet on the Ministry of Interior
  • Expansion of network of partners in action, both from NGO’s and advocacy groups as well as municipal and government agencies.

Atta’a Presenting workshops

MiniActive for Arab Residents of East Jerusalem

  • For the first time ever, MiniActive activities led to a change in policy. After months of campaigning, MiniActive led the way toward the addition of 3 million NIS to the annual municipal sanitation budget for east Jerusalem, and 16 million NIS for the purchase of additional equipment for sanitation. As a result of this work, the entire Municipality is focusing their attention on garbage collection throughout
  • In January 2016, MiniActive organized the first ever Arabic language Horticulture Therapy course in Jerusalem for special education teachers, in cooperation with the David Yellin Academic College of Education.
  • Bus stops in entire neighborhoods were repaired and replaced, thanks to MiniActive.
  • 210 women – including 50 youth – are studying Hebrew through a volunteer NGO to improve the effectivity of their activism. This is a record-breaking number, which broke last year’s record of 150 women.
  • In MiniActive Youth for the Environment, teenage girls learn leadership skills while participating in major environment-improving public art and other projects in neighborhoods throughout east Jerusalem.
  • MiniActive became a model for international work, hosting a delegation that works with the Roma population in the Czech Republic in November 2016.

Take a look at MiniActive’s own year in review. It’s pretty easy to understand, even if you don’t know Arabic:

Emergency Readiness Networks

In 2016 we expanded the network to include 14 communities throughout Jerusalem. In addition to training new volunteers, the program included training of existing networks to maintain ability to respond and increase sustainability.

Planning on map

Planning strategy on map

Multicultural Participatory Democracy

In 2016 we mentored community center staffs in Gilo, Kiryat Menachem, Givat Messuah, Baka’a and south Talpiot. For the first time, residents – especially the Ethiopian community in Kiryat Menachem and the highly diverse community of south Talpiot –felt that they were able to influence issues that affected their everyday lives. Training included using Facebook as a community-building tool key to increasing residents’ engagement in community processes.

Writing and submitting objections

Writing and submitting objections in Gilo

Promoting Tolerance in the Public Sphere

Since the summer of 2014 the JICC have been at the forefront of promoting tolerance in Jerusalem. 2016 accomplishments include:

  • A Different Day in Jerusalem celebrated Jerusalem’s diversity through 50 coordinated events, affecting tens of thousands of people on Jerusalem Day. It was the first time such a broad effort has been made to celebrate Jerusalem’s diversity.
  • JICC-mentored Speaking in the Square and other tolerance initiatives that came in their wake led to the redesigning of Zion Square, to be called Tolerance Square. The initiative’s Effective Dialogue methodology spread, and is now being presented in national frameworks.
  • 0202-Points of View from Jerusalem are now liked by nearly 80,000 people and reach some 150,000 people weekly on Facebook and the Internet. The network now includes pages that translate from Arabic to Hebrew, from Arabic to English and one which brings news from the Ultra-Orthodox world to the awareness of the general population.
  • The JICC was asked to be one of the leading organizations in the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations to Promote Tolerance, formed by the Center for Young Adults and the Municipality’s Young Authority.
  • The JICC is continuing to develop Tolerance Network Teams (TNT’s), a series of neighborhood-based and theme-based grassroots initiatives that seek to advance tolerance in Jerusalem.
Elhanan Miller Haaretz article

Haaretz article about A Different Day in Jerusalem

Window to Mount Zion

Since October 2015, Window to Mount Zion has bridged inter-religious and inter-community gaps that have festered between Jewish, Christian and Muslim groups for centuries. As a result of its activity over the past year:

  • In unheard-of cooperation, religious Jewish and Christian groups have issued joint statements condemning hate crimes on Mount Zion.
  • Christian ceremonies, which in the past have caused inter-religious tension, proceeded without incident.
  • The celebration of Christian and Jewish holidays that coincided simultaneously, which in the past had been the source of conflict and tension, also proceeded smoothly.
Window to Mount Zion volunteers

Window to Mount Zion volunteers

Asylum Seekers

The JICC, together with the Jerusalem Municipality, sponsor the only paid public servant in Israel to help asylum seekers, outside of Tel Aviv. We are also part of a consortium of organizations and agencies that seek to meet the needs of asylum seekers living in the city.

Tour of Nahlaot neighborhood

Families of asylum seekers on tour of Nahlaot neighborhood

Thank You!

Many many thanks go out to our partners in action and our donors. You can read about our activities in more detail either by clicking on the hyperlinks above, or by clicking here.

Looking forward to making 2017 even better!

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NII – Knowing We’re Having an Impact in Cultural Competency

It’s always nice to be appreciated, but it’s especially nice to know we’re being appreciated in one of the most culturally tense places in Jerusalem – the East Jerusalem branch of the National Insurance Institute (NII).

During the recent site visits

During the recent site visits

We’ve described here how we’ve been working with them over the past year or so. This is groundbreaking work – the first NII branch in Israel to undergo a process of cultural competency training and adaptation, all in one of the most tense, most sensitive areas, East Jerusalem.

We also described here how, as part of this process, we organized site visits of four major organizations with which we’ve worked, so that NII team members could better understand how different aspects of cultural competency are implemented on-the-ground.

Just a few weeks later, we received a thank-you letter. It read:

Dear Hagai,

On behalf of the employees of the East Jerusalem branch of the National Insurance Institute, I would like to express our appreciation and gratitude to the staff of the Jerusalem Intercultural Center, and especially Ms. Orna Shani…[As a result of the site visits] the staff returned excited and challenged to work together to learn lessons [from these experiences] and obtain the right tools for our organization and branch.

…The fact that you chose to invest your best efforts, your time and your knowledge in us is not to be taken for granted. For this we have immense gratitude.

We are only beginning the process, and are pioneers and leaders in the National Insurance Institute.

Waiting for continued joint work,

Eti Ra’anan Ezer


East Jerusalem Branch

In response, Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, National Director of the National Insurance Institute, noted that this was a “unique, significant and worthy activity.”

Here’s a link to the original letter in Hebrew:

NII thank you letter

NII thank you letter

We’re also proud of our joint work with the NII East Jerusalem branch, and look forward to continuing to integrate principles of cultural competency in their important work.

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On Our Way to Making the Entire Jerusalem Municipality Culturally Competent

If making Jerusalem a culturally competent city is to continue to be one of our main goals, then making the Municipality Culturally Competent is one of our major tasks. The task is huge – there are dozens of municipal departments and thousands – if not tens of thousands – of municipal workers.

Slowly but surely, we’re working our way through. In the summer we began in-depth processes with the Community Services Administration, one of the Municipality’s main arms. You can read more about it here.  We’ve also begun working with the Comptroller’s office.

Learning about Mt. Zion from a Window to Mt. Zion perspective

Learning about Mt. Zion from a Window to Mt. Zion perspective

Last week, on October 6, staff from the Comptroller’s office had an intensive learning experience in cultural competency, with Mount Zion as a case study. They first had a tour of Mount Zion by Merav, coordinator of our Window to Mount Zion project, with an emphasis on some of the many stories of cultural competence that the project has facilitated over the past year, from enabling Christian pilgrims to enter David’s Tomb for a short time during the Orthodox Christian Pentacost (in years past this has caused violent reactions by Jewish devotees), to sharing the Mount on the during the weekend when the Jewish holiday of Purim and the Catholic and Protestant celebration of Easter. (You can read more about the Window to Mount Zion project here and here, and about Purim / Easter here.)

After learning about the uniqueness of Mount Zion and the Window to Mount Zion project, we presented the Comptroller’s office staff with a general overview of the principles of cultural competency at our home on Mount Zion. This began the discussion on how to integrate these principles into the everyday work of the Comptroller’s office.

They told us how excited they were to see these areas in person. They’d dealt with a lot of issues on Mt. Zion, but had never had the introduction and explanations that we gave them. They were happy to get that different perspective.

We’ll keep you posted on future developments.

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