Paulina Banasiak did not just visit Israel, she “experienced it.” While in Israel, Banasiak was able to see how Israeli social workers practice with their own diverse and vulnerable populations such as African refugees, the LGBTQ community, and individuals with disabilities. This was possible with the Herbert and Jacqueline Klein Award for Study in Israel—awarded to Rutgers University School of Social Work students Banasiak, Irene L. Foster, Jelysa Hernandez, and Yushi Wang—which supported their study in the School of Social Work-Israel program during winter 2015.
The annual student awards ceremony, sponsored by the Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life and the Rutgers Department of Jewish Studies, was held on May 5. While Banasiak and Wang were presented with the awards, Banasiak, an MSW graduate, also spoke of her experiences in Israel and in the field of social work, in general.
“Social work doesn’t carry the same glamour as let’s say psychology but it should,” she said. “Social work makes you a better person – a more well-rounded, self-aware, and educated individual.”
A memory that stuck with Banasiak was her encounter with a teenager named Sara, who was very keen to serve her country, but was reluctant to travel abroad for the fear of not being accepted. This made Banasiak realize that as a social worker she needs to spread cultural competency so young individuals like Sara don’t feel discriminated against.
“Being in Israel was inspiring; it turned from what I thought was going to be an educational trip into a thought provoking – perspective shifting – life lesson,” she said.
Banasiak thanked the Department of Jewish Studies, the Bildner Center, Herbert and Jacqueline Klein Fund for Study in Israel, and the School of Social Work, primarily Dr. Bert Goldberg, and her field placement supervisor Elaine Meyerson for their support.