Broadening Social Perspectives: Hebrew U Exchange Students Explore Social Work Through A Canadian Lens

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Hebrew University MSW exchange students Karin Movshovich (l) and Dima Gutman (r)
Hebrew University MSW exchange students Karin Movshovich (l) and Dima Gutman (r).

 

Social workers by definition are trained to embrace multiple viewpoints and experiences — after all, that’s one of the keys to building empathy and creating change.

So it made perfect sense for Dima Gutman, 30, and Karin Movshovich, 36, to spend a semester studying at the University of Toronto’s Factor Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. The two, both Masters of Social Work students at the Hebrew University’s Paul Baerwald School of Social Work and Social Welfare, were among the first wave of students to take advantage of a 2016 partnership between the two schools, which allows full-time graduate students at both universities to study at their partner institution.

After five years — the last two as director — of the Jerusalem branch of House of Wheels, an NGO serving people with disabilities, Gutman was ready for a change. That’s when he went back to school for his MSW. Coming to Toronto, he says, seemed like the next logical step.

“I wanted to broaden my perspectives, improve my English, and see how social work looks in different countries,” says the Belarus native, who immigrated to Israel with his family at the age of 3½.

Movshovich, 36, is no stranger to Toronto — much of her immediate family lives in Thornhill, and she graduated from York University in 2007 with a BA in psychology. She returned to U of T because of the good impression she had of academia in the city. She was drawn to social work, she says, because she wants to help people at the systemic level; she’s interested in one day working with homeless populations in Tel Aviv.

Gutman and Movshovich both took a course in social work practice and couples therapy; as well, he studied social work practice focused on one with children and adolescents, while she took a course in “Theoretical approaches to defining social justice and engaging in social change.” Both were fascinated by the differences in Israeli and Canadian approaches to the field.

“In Canada, the approach is much more science- and evidence-based,” explains Movshovich. “In Israel, in contrast, the approach is much more experiential and psychodynamic.” The U of T program, she says, was very diverse and versatile, looking at social work from a variety of critical and social justice approaches.

“I’m coming back to Israel with a lot of new knowledge and a lot that I want to read more about,” says Gutman. Both the Hebrew University and the University of Toronto, he notes, made the exchange process very welcoming and seamless. In Toronto, the two met directly with the dean of social work, and a counsellor checked in frequently to make sure they were flourishing and to troubleshoot any problems. He appreciated in particular U of T’s Writing Centre, which offered invaluable assistance with writing term papers in a foreign language. “I learned a lot from it and really developed confidence in the language.”

As exchange students, Movshovich and Gutman paid regular Hebrew University tuition fees to study at U of T. They also received funding from the Hebrew University and CFHU, which “helped a lot in managing daily life here,” says Gutman.

Both highly recommend the exchange experience.

“It’s very interesting to study in a different language and academic setting,” says Gutman. “It broadens your perspective.”

“I’m very happy for the experience,” says Movshovich. “The courses I took enriched my critical view on social work and life. I would definitely recommend it, especially for students who are independent and open-minded.”

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