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MSW, Masters in Social Work, Israeli, Judaism

January 3, 2013

New Jersey has been my home now for two decades, and XXXX University has been a family tradition, seeing my two daughters joining the ranks of alumni.  And now, I am applying to the School of Social Work (SSW).  It is with great pride that I envision standing with my children, as Rutgers alumni, achievers of an exemplary education.

 The SSW is a natural and logical choice.  The State of New Jersey over the years has accommodated and attends to the unique needs of the influx of myriad ethnic groups that call New Jersey home.  Coupled with the US economic climate, the growing numbers of disadvantaged, vulnerable populations and retirees are stretching the capabilities of Social Services.  The nation is literally at a pivotal moment, one that requires intense change and unwavering faith.  I can no longer stand silently by, and am eager to involve myself in the reform that must take place.

 The SSW’s mission has never been more relevant than today: “to create dynamic solutions to social problems”.  The term “sustainable” had yet to be coined, so dynamic is understood to encompass viability, sustainability, and creativity.  To this end, the SSW has proven itself by its constructive responses to the problems that the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) encountered several years ago.  Moreover, the SSW’s affiliation with over 800 social service groups is very reassuring of an academic experience that is as relevant as it is dynamic and diverse.

 The SSW has maintained a conceptual continuity in education and social interaction since the day it opened.  I was pleased to read of the SSW’s beginnings, offering classes during the Great Depression, meeting New Jersey’s need for social workers.  As our nation enters its greatest economic challenge of the new millennium, the demand for social workers has increased once more.  My desire to increase the amelioration of lives on an individual, community and larger scales is intense, and I can think of no better course of action, involving myself in a field of work that will bring me the greatest personal, spiritual and professional fulfillment.

 My personal values, philosophy and knowledge of social issues were heavily influenced and developed after completing my undergraduate education.  Moving to New York City, I met my husband, and began exploring and learning about my Jewish heritage, an exploration that inspired me to move to Israel.  Living on a Kibbutz near the JordanValley in the Old City of Jerusalem, and Haifa, one of our children was born in Ram Allah by a Palestinian obstetrician, and the other in an Israeli hospital in Haifa.  Adapting to Israeli society, we integrated its culture and traditions into our lives, adopting the Hebrew language, and shared in the sorrows and joys of our friends and country.  In popular media, it is hard to appreciate the sheer diversity of Israel’s population, with Argentineans, Russians, Orientals, and Africans calling Israel home.  Spirituality and religiosity is at the hub of Israeli society.  Ten years in Israel expanded my worldview, my grasp and value of tolerance.  In addition, I am sensitive to the needs of the immigrant and issues of acculturation.  All of these skills, learned through living, will prove invaluable as I reach out to diverse US clients.

 Communities are comprised of families, and to this end, a viable family, as one part of a community, deserves stability, and the opportunity to grow in a healthy environment.  My own family, extended family and closest friends are the bread and jewels of my life.  They are the sustenance that nourishes me and the wisdom attained from loving and being loved.  With a healthy family comes the ability to be completely honest and open, sharing common joys as well as life’s sorrows and challenges; learning to trust and share is critical.  As my marriage ended, our household was divided, but our family’s foundation saw us through financial difficulties, and adapted to change.  While statistics show the trend is leaning towards broken homes, the will to make it through and to do best by children involved are ideals that cannot be ignored.

 Utilizing social services was a choice born of seeking support and knowledge to make my children’s lives easier, a choice that improved me as a person, parent and friend.  At the same time, social workers that took the tangled threads of our lives and helped us reach positive solutions truthfully impressed me.  This in fact, laid the groundwork for my own path in life.  Attending Al-Anon meetings, single parent groups, and spirituality circles, I found groups that fit my needs, became self-empowered and transformed.  I am now an avid advocate of community involvement and support groups.  In Al-Anon, a part of our daily greeting was, “there is no problem too great that cannot be helped”.  These few simple words give me the confidence to tackle and overcome any obstacle in my life and now I will apply this same determination to helping others overcome their own.  Have witnessed people shed years of ingrained anger and resentment, and start anew, with a fresh face, establishing new friendships was inspiring, convincing me this is where I wanted to aid the community.

 Having lived on two highly different continents, I appreciate the amazing kaleidoscope of social contrasts and textures that exist.  What is more, I have lived and seen a world of extremes, the ability to access the world community via computers, cell phones with increasing efficiency as technology advances, a blessing or curse, made up of a constant informational bombardment.  Emerging nations are held up as examples of gross divides between haves and have not’s, but developed nations hold equally contradictory social circumstances that affect access to health, and education.  While capitalism may be the best system we have, it has created a breed of consumers that are artificially fed their next desire, while being simultaneously outraged with the greed of corporate giants.  And in the midst of economic upheaval, we turn and face our own ages-old habits that have affected global weather patterns that threaten to alter the earth for centuries to come.  While the picture appears bleak, I am hopeful and optimistic.  Like Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, the colors were diminished through neglect and lack of foresight.  Through painstaking and careful steps, the frescoes are now as vivid as the day they were first completed.  Social workers are the restorers, and in America, we have been given a new President, a return to attending to the needs of our people, bringing hope to the discouraged and oppressed.  Through our efforts, the multifaceted fresco of our country’s future will be restored, traveling a path built on faith and perseverance.

 In my commitment to improve my life, and the lives of my loved ones, I have developed my optimism and faith.  Through my faith of Judaism, I learned the value of having a “shalom beit” or “peaceful home”.  Native Americans come from a heritage steeped in living in harmony with nature and honor of elders.  While I have investigated many cultures, my affinity for Eastern philosophies, particularly Buddhism and meditation have taught me non-judgmental mindfulness, and compassionate forgiveness.  Equanimity is my North Star, my peace, harmony and balance.  Meditation has altered my life, but has been proven to promote awareness and acceptance of others, the stepping-stones to social harmony.

 My ability to be a mindful, compassionate listener is seeking an avenue where it can be best utilized, and social work is at the heart of this endeavor.  Through treating people of all walks of life with respect and dignity, trust can be established.  I feel that I have an excellent grasp of this ability, and am flexible in imparting knowledge to people of all ages and cultures.  Being perceptive helps and allows me to deduce and be insightful in my advice to others.  Meditation has taught me that I have the freedom to choose how I respond to people and events, empowering and motivating me to approach daily tasks with enthusiasm.  This does not mean there is a need to avoid conflict as being counterproductive, as growth and change are not always pleasant, but are frequently very necessary.  Overcoming my sensitive nature and fear of hurting others through frank observations of negative behaviors has aided me in many work and life experiences.

 Working in the building industry for over ten years in the area of kitchen design and sales seems an unlikely place to build skills that are transferable to social work.  However, over the years, I have worked with people from all lifestyles, ethnic groups, and socioeconomic status, developing and refining a number of techniques, the right questions to ask, when to listen, and deduce intuitively what a client’s needs are.  Working as a part of a multidisciplinary team built my professional relationships and professional interpersonal skills.  The corporate environment taught me to manage bureaucratic structures, systems of health and life insurance, and employee benefits.  In order to advocate for clients, I feel that these experiences will give me an added edge in getting needs and, at times, rights, attended to seriously.

 I look forward to learning all aspects of social work, but am attracted towards gerontology as a specialty or emphasis for my studies.  Having had many rewarding experiences with elders, and an awareness that life spans are significantly being extended, I believe there is a growing relevance for sustainable paradigms to attend to seniors’ needs.  Our aging Baby Boomer population alone is an example of the urgency for pioneering new ways to participate in society, a cause I would enjoy advancing.

 My own grandparents lead vibrant lives, sharing stories that left me feeling I was an equal.  Advocating for seniors’ rights, promoting healthy programming, and aiding in dispelling age discriminatory beliefs and practices, will increase harmony between young and old.  I foresee seniors facing complex decisions that are affected by existing mores that may be antiquated.  Seniors have as much right to lead lives that are satisfying, and deserve services to support them in this.  Counseling seniors individually or in groups, I would like to explore the possibility of developing groups or retreats for the purpose of transforming or empowering seniors.

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