A pilot program that saw a collaboration between the Orthodox Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh and Carlow University — a Catholic university in Oakland — not only succeeded in providing valuable instruction to Yeshiva’s staff, but leaders of the two schools are now in talks to see how to further their relationship.
For 12 weeks this past spring, administrators, counselors and teachers from Yeshiva’s elementary and high schools were students at a specially designed Sunday-evening course offered by Carlow’s psychology department.
“Rabbi Choni Friedman [of B’nai Emunah Chabad and a teacher at Yeshiva] and I had been talking over the last couple of years about providing this type of a course, training in clinical psychology for administrators, maybe a couple rabbis and some of the counselors that work at Yeshiva,” said Rabbi Yossi Rosenblum, principal of Yeshiva Boys School.
So, when Yisroel (“Jonathan”) King, a psychology graduate student at Carlow and a substitute teacher at Yeshiva, offered to investigate possibilities for such a course, Rosenblum readily agreed.
“Yisroel spoke to [Carlow’s psychology department] and, subsequent to that, we had numerous meetings around a year ago,” Rosenblum said. “Together we put together a 12-week curriculum with Dr. [Joseph] Roberts [chair of Carlow’s psychology department] as the primary coordinator of the program.”
The course, which was attended by 12 members of the staff and faculty of Yeshiva, was “excellent,” Rosenblum said, adding that he is now talking with Roberts about continuing the program next year and looking for additional ways to collaborate.
“I think many of the participants grew in their helping skills — working, listening and guiding students who have particular issues or questions, or are seeking to be understood,” Rosenblum said. “Really appreciating where the kids are coming from, recognizing all the variables and different possibilities that are in front of you.”
While the staff and faculty of Yeshiva have done a lot of professional development on these issues, they nonetheless were enriched by the Carlow course, according to Rosenblum.
“These were top notch presenters and the course was very focused over a period of three months,” he said. “So, it was powerful.”
While this was the first program of its kind offered by Carlow’s psychology department, Roberts said, it fits the mission of the university.
“I think we are very interested in social justice and diversity applications at the university, so it felt like it was a good fit for what some of our goals are,” he said. “I’m sure we learned as much from [Yeshiva] as they learned from us. And I think it will help us in the future in developing even more specific programming.”
The Carlow instructors, Roberts said, learned from their time in the classroom with the Yeshiva staff that “there were a lot of overlaps in some of the concepts we were discussing. Of course, the language and the cultural origin points were different. But, when we were looking at developmental stages, there was language for that within the religious tradition and text that paralleled some of the psychological concepts.”
The Yeshiva staff and faculty, Roberts said, was not exactly what the Carlow professors were expecting.
“It was something I discussed with Rabbi Rosenblum — the idea that we had to be very cautious with what we said, because we didn’t want to offend anyone or be overbearing,” said Roberts. “But I found them deeply philosophical and able to engage in very big ideas in a way that I think surprised some of us. The tenacity, the ability to stick with an idea and argue points and open up discussion around various things that were new to many of them.
“A lot of times, it felt like you were dealing with graduate students, even though it was the first time they had come across some of this information. And I think it was because of that deep philosophy that kind of runs through that tradition.”
Roberts said the two schools are considering the possibility of “creating an endorsed certificate of some kind that would be tied to the university and would allow members of [the Yeshiva] community to have actual credit or an established certificate from the university.”
The second iteration of the program will most likely be offered in 2018, according to Roberts.
“I’ve been really excited partnering with them,” he said. “I’m hoping we can continue to build our collaboration over the next few years and be a good resource, and also be of use to the community too.”
King, who served as the “cultural liaison” between Yeshiva and Carlow, was also pleased with the collaboration that he helped initiate.
“I think the course helped expand Yeshiva’s ability to help children with different needs,” said King, who works as a family-based therapist. “It helped the administrators and the teachers learn how to identify these needs and how to work with the families.” PJC
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.