A recent professional development seminar entitled “Multiculturalism in the Pediatric Setting,” hosted by the Hadassah School at the Hadassah Medical Organization, highlighted the multicultural profile of the hospital’s staff and patients.
“The multicultural reality of Hadassah is that hospitalized children come from a range of cultural and religious backgrounds, be they Jewish, Muslim or Christian and either identify as Israeli or Palestinian,” notes Esther Takac, a Melbourne, Australia psychologist who attended the seminar. “The same is true of hospital staff, who also support a range of political beliefs.” While conflict and tension are never far from Hadassah’s doors, the hospital, however, manages to keep the reality of the streets from crossing its threshold, she relates.
Once these diverse children become patients in the hospital, Dr. Takac explains, they learn to cope not only with a challenging medical world, but with people who speak different languages and have different cultural norms. The school has made it a goal to strengthen this cross-cultural understanding and allow children to discover that they have been presented with a rare opportunity for new experiences and friendships. These young patients have a window to break down stereotypes and prejudices.
“The children at Hadassah didn’t choose to attend a multicultural school, but once they’re here, they have a positive, multicultural experience that they and their families will not forget,” explains the school’s director, Edna Pinchover. “We believe that our educational/therapeutic work plants seeds of hope and friendship among the many cultures in our land.”
Dr. Takac notes that she has worked with Mrs. Pinchover and witnessed her deep commitment to an ethical and democratic environment, as well as her respectful and accepting approach to all patients and staff.
To cultivate this multicultural atmosphere, the school has been providing professional development to its staff for a number of years. Last year, the school formalized an ethical code, which provides a model for dealing with multicultural dilemmas.
This recent seminar focused on the principles of democratic thinking, which strengthen respectful and cooperative behavior among people whose beliefs and values may be different from one’s own. The principles help professionals to think clearly and ethically about daily dilemmas that arise. Recently, for example, a Jewish family refused to receive treatment from an Arab nurse; another family did not want their child to be taught by an Arab teacher; and a Muslim boy bragged on the ward about throwing stones at Jewish Israelis.
Through lectures and workshops by academics and experts in multiculturalism from a variety of fields, including music, theater, and the visual arts, sensitive multicultural themes could be explored. As participants delved deeper into one another’s cultures, they found common values and bases of respect--a reservoir of understanding with which to respond to multicultural conflicts in the future.