When we talk about cultural competency, it’s usually about helping service providers serve a range of minority groups better. Or it’s about one minority group learning to work better within the majority’s ‘system.’ But what about one minority group within itself?
This was our focus when we held a cultural competency workshop for women lecturers at the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT) in early July. The JCT is an institute of higher education that targets Orthodox and Haredi men and women, in separate campuses and in single-gender classes, focusing on engineering and computers, management and life and biological sciences (such as nursing).
The lecturers came from a range of disciplines – business administration, mathematics, law, nursing, and more, and themselves represented a variety of cultures and religious observances.
From the outside, the Haredi world might seem monolithic and singular. But when you look more closely that world is extremely diverse, and cultural competency skills are necessary in teaching, especially if the lecturers do not come from that world, which was the case for some in the workshop. Some lecturers spoke about how they looked for course content that was appropriate for the students, including examples that the students could relate to. Another lecturer spoke about how her students address her in the third person, as is the norm in the Haredi world. Yet another told that the teaching style expected in the Haredi world leaves little room for spontaneity in the classroom, which is quite different than what she’s used to in other ‘general’ frameworks. And yet another, a lecturer in economics, told about an incident of a male colleague. He wanted to present the Brazilian economic model to his female students. He typed in “Brazilian model” into Google, and got quite a different result than he’d planned. While everyone in the class was quite embarrassed, workshop participants agreed that the matter would have been considered much more serious if it’d been a class of only male students….
This is just one example of our continued work in the field of cultural competency, in Jerusalem and throughout Israel. We would like to extend our gratitude to the Jerusalem Foundation, for its continuing support of Cultural Competency in Jerusalem since its inception a decade ago.