Fruits and Roots of Jewish Communal Service Scholarship

We were proud to announce in our June newsletter that we've just added 12 master's theses by HUC-JIR School of Jewish Communal Service students to our offerings. Education in Jewish communal service has come a long way - as it turns out, the history of Jewish communal service education is full of people worried about the efficacy of social work training and whether and how it can properly prepare Jewish students to serve the needs of Jewish communities - in some cases, even whether Jewish students can be enticed into training to serve Jewish communities. Now that we have successful, effective, and selective educational programs where students learn both clinical and research skills, it would be a shame for this work to go unread and unused. Titles include

Here are some of the steps along the way of how we got here:

In 1949, Walter Lurie surveyed the six national training programs in existence (Yeshiva University, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion, Dropsie College, the National Jewish Welfare Board, and the Training Bureau for Jewish Communal Service) and wondered "what justification is there to speak of a "Jewish communal service" as a professional field of work? And second, what is the Jewish component in Jewish communal service?" (Present Programs of Training for Jewish Communal Service).

In the late 50s, they worried about how to persuade seduce college students out of the general social work field and into Jewish social work (Do It Yourself! -- The Challenge of Recruitment: A Responsibility and Opportunity for the Profession).

In 1972, Samuel Silberman again argued that Jewish communal work must better define itself as a field (Jewish Communal Service - The Shaping of a Profession). A 1975 article somewhat puzzlingly uses the word 'new' to describe this profession: "The Jewish B.A. Social Worker: A New Professional For Jewish Communal Services". It studies the demographics of Jewish social workers and bemoans how few of them actually have degrees. Education for Social Work Practice in Jewish Communal Service studied the question of how to formulate a proper post-secondary curriculum for Jewish social work.

And coming more or less full circle, a 1998 article looks back on the transformation and evolution of Jewish social work education (at one school) since 1969: The Transformation of Jewish Social Work: Bernard Reisman and the Hornstein Program at Brandeis University.

The more things change...

Meanwhile, rockets circle overhead, statesmen scale the summit, dark-skinned Africans and Asians are awakening in revolt against the imposition of restrictive control by foreign domination and white Southern demagogues are rising in massive resistance against the imposition of human decency by the Constitution of the United States, the strontium 90 falls all around all around, Jews in Israel are confidently building a state in the teeth of Arab and Soviet hostility, Jews in Europe are courageously rebuilding Jewish life despite decimation and dispersion, and we Jews here in the United States are gropingly seeking to maintain a meaningful Jewish life in the face of apathy, ignorance, and many signposts but few roads. -Walter Lurie, President, National Conference of Jewish Communal Service

This is a quote from the opening remarks of the 1959 meeting of the National Conference of Jewish Communal Service. It wouldn't take much editing to keep it relevant today. (Attention Jewish communal speech writers: we have resources!)

"white Southern demagogues are rising in massive resistance against the imposition of human decency by the Constitution of the United States"

The tea party? Hopefully the first part of this quote will become less true and the second part, more true, the future composition of this Supreme Court permitting.

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