Two weeks ago, in mid-July, we celebrated the publication of our Cultural Competency Manual in Hebrew. It’s been almost 2 years in the making, and a labor of love for a long list of people, from lecturers and researchers from throughout Israel, to cultural competency coordinators in major health care institutions, to officials in the Ministry of Health. It is the first manual of its kind in Israel, and one of the only significant ‘how-to’ guides in the world.
This is a major accomplishment, but we have no intention of resting on our laurels. This manual is only a part our full-service cultural competency support system (see here for more information), from soup to nuts. We start with introductory workshops for cultural competency coordinators and staff – what is cultural competency? How can we be sensitive to others’ cultures and traditions, without being experts? Our services also include training courses for medical interpreters in a number of languages – Arabic, Russian, Yiddish, Amharic, and more. Medical interpreters and not medical translators? Yes, because they are doing more than translating word for word, they are interpreting the needs of the patients and their families to facilitate full communication with the treatment staff. We just finished a course at Sha’are Zedek Hospital, and not only was the feedback was very positive, participants noted that the issue of translation / interpretation was one of the most important sections in the course. The courses mean little without the day to day mentoring and follow-up with the cultural competency coordinators in the different clinics and institutions – how to increase translations of the different signage and forms to the different languages, helping to assimilate concepts of cultural competency into the different institutions, even with staff who had not yet taken part in a training seminar. Our work does not stop there.
In April, in preparation for publishing the manual, we held a seminar in which one of the original goals was to get feedback for the manual. But a second goal, not less important, was the formation of a peer network of professionals and academicians who work in cultural competency throughout Israel, which is leading to sub-networks according to specific disciplines (mental health, primary clinics, hospitals, etc.), all which have their similarities and whose implementations in the field are slightly different. In addition, we provide supplemental materials to help those involved in cultural competency have a better understanding of major holidays, traditions, and other issues. See the attached explanations on the Jewish commemoration of Tisha b’Av and on the Muslim celebration of Ramadan. Together with the Department of Translation and Interpreting Studies at Bar-Ilan University, we are also working on short films, which will further enhance the training process.
We’d like to thank the Jerusalem Foundation for its partnership in this project since the beginning in 2008, and for the assistance from the New Israel Fund, which has enabled us to expand the project throughout Israel.