Over the past several years, students and faculty from Rutgers School of Social Work have visited Israel Elwyn (IE) in Jerusalem as part of a two-week study tour. This year the focus was on IE’s “Reshet” (“network” in Hebrew) program, which provides disabled Israeli high school students studying in the regular educational system with preparation techniques for the challenges they may encounter as an adult.
The highlight of the visit was meeting with three students from IE’s Reshet program in Ashdod following a presentation about Reshet by Moshe Pensachov, Reshet Coordinator in Ashdod. The teens explained what exposure to their post-graduation opportunities has meant to them and how meeting other high school students with disabilities through Reshet activities has expanded and enriched their social lives.
Paulina Banasiak, a Management and Policy (MAP) student who attended the Israel trip, said it was an invaluable experience. “We met young people and talked about their lives. And because all Israeli citizens must serve in the military, we talked about their time there, gaining perspectives and connecting with people.”
Banasiak was particularly impressed by the connections she made with the Israeli people. “As social workers, everyone talks about working with their population. It was great in Israel because we were able to see and work with a variety of populations.”
She also said that climbing Masada, a mountain in Israel, offered an incredible experience. The Rutgers students decided that they would hike up the mountain together. They cheered each other on as the hike became more difficult. She said it was a great team building exercise that made everyone on the trip closer.
“The trip was amazing,” Banasiak said. “I would love to talk about it over and over again, because it was such a unique opportunity. I would highly recommend it to everyone. Some people would say two weeks is not a long enough time in a different country, but we were immersed in culture everywhere we went.”