«Jewish Observer»
July 2002
5762 Av

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"...Say, are there any professions beyond Good and Evil? For instance, our profession - who has chosen whom: we have chosen it or vice versa?"...Silence reigned in the room. Outside the windows - inviting scenery of Yaremcha, inside the hall of the "Karpaty" hotel - participants of the seminar: directors of kheseds of Central, Western and Southern Ukraine, coordinators of the Kiev and Odessa "Joint" representations, staff of the Kiev and Odessa institutes of social and community workers. A quite unusual theme is offered for a discussion, "Ethic dominants in the work of Jewish charitable organizations".

Leadership of "Joint", leading specialists in social and community work from Israel are present in the hall - this or other seminars would simply not have taken place without their support. They show interest and are ready to joint the discussion whereas the lecturer keeps offering new problems: what is an "ethic mission" of a social service? Why is it necessary to personify social justice? What does a three thousand-year old Jewish tradition teach us in this respect?

You simply cannot but voice your long painful opinion. But don't make haste! Discussion, as it is known, is not a guide to action, but information to contemplation. Do you want concrete examples? You are welcomed to a role-play! Participants are divided into four groups. Each one has its concrete situation: for example, you are director of a khesed and you have to discharge a rather decent head of the program due to lack to funds. Or how will you demote your worker? Play turns were very exciting, at times absolutely unexpected. It appears there are no limits to resistance of some and inventiveness of others. But, obviously, it is very difficult to take a personal moral decision if there is nothing to go behind; one is often so unwilling to make an independent choice and undertake the responsibility.

Independent experts-onlookers quickly grew ardent participants of the play. In particular, it became clear a so-called "positive" situation might be no less complicated psychologically and morally when you are to encourage only one of several good workers.

The game was planned and conducted in such a way that all its participants had an opportunity to show their theoretical knowledge and practical skills (or lack of them) to copoe with a concrete moral situation.

The second day of the seminar presented another problem turn to its participants: a still more complicated theme was offered for the discussion - on negative influence of a charitable organization on its clients and staff.

The seminar program diplomatically called this influence "ambiguous". The problem is how to help the patronized not to make them passive consumers in the course of time (especially in those cases when close patronage on the part of a khesed is really necessary). Alongside a khesed should avoid becoming a benefactor, "small god" distributing benefits and demanding worship. Participants were again split into working groups 8-9 person each, played and discussed various situations, again and again arrived at unexpected decisions. When all variants were brought together it turned out they coincided: first, you should treat a client as a partner in a common cause, second - be attentive to his spiritual demands encouraging his creative potential, third - do everything possible to create situations in which help to the patronized is combined with their mutual assistance to one another. There also were items four, and five, and six.

By the way, our directors supplemented the declared theme (in for a penny, in for a pound!) with a problem of ambiguous influence of a khesed on its leaders, i.e. on themselves. They also talked about a danger of their psychological and moral "burning down".

The gathering discussed questions of correlation of professional independence and responsibility of directors of kheseds, coordinators of "Joint" which went in line with other problems of the seminar. This occurred within the frames of presenting the theme "Prospects of kheseds' development" with the participation of all leaders of "Joint" present and also during working meetings of the khesed directors and "Joint" coordinators. The problem of independence and flexibility in taking decisions was rather acute during group discussions of the theme "Ethics of mutual relations of a khesed's director and an outside world". The discussion got concentrated on relations with "Joint", with other Jewish organizations and the community, with government structures.

Participants were rather excited during a final round table. Twenty six persons took the floor. It's possible to sum it up in the following way.

- The seminar was useful since it had provided an opportunity to exchange opinions and to look at oneself from outside.

- Joint meetings of representatives of charitable and community organizations of different regions are very important, as well as joint efforts of the institutions teaching them.

- A candid talk on ethic dominants of the work, its moral standards is extremely topical Obviously, this talk only begins. Director of KISCW Boris Zabarko noted a moral standard for a social worker is a trait of professionalism which is impossible without constant studies, constant improvement of proficiency. If we want changes for the better, we should change much within ourselves. Sofia Kremer summarized the event in a peculiar way, " The fact this seminar is, obviously, too short for its participants may become its highest estimate and a key for our further meetings".


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