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Women's Intercultural Leadership Seminar

A civil engineer, an information technology specialist, a renowned feminist writer – these were among the remarkable group of Israeli women participants in the Dialogue Institute’s recent Women’s Intercultural Leadership Seminar (WILS). The Dialogue Institute developed this program in partnership with Al Qasemi Academic College of Education in Baqa Al-Garbia, Israel, as the culmination of a yearlong project dedicated to Arab-Jewish women’s leadership development and empowerment. The ten-day event (July 19-29) brought together Arab Muslim and Jewish women from Israel with Philadelphia-area women from diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds for an intensive experience of cultural interchange, dialogue training, and exploring models for women’s leadership. 

Most of the Israeli participants are professors and/or administrators at Al Qasemi, teaching the next generation of professionals in education, public administration, and social work in the Arabic language sectors in Israel. Additional members of the delegation included Jewish professional women from other colleges or organizations. Their shared commitment to building bridges of understanding across religious and cultural divides in their societal context shaped the questions and interests they brought to the WILS experience.  Dr. Dalia Fadila, Dean of Students and Deputy President of Al Qasemi, worked with Dr. Racelle Weiman, Senior Director for Global Education and Program Development of the Dialogue Institute, to design a program that introduced the participants to a variety of models for cross-cultural women’s leadership development.

The WILS program wove together academic lectures and workshops (led by DI staff members including Dr. Weiman, Prof. Leonard Swidler, Dr. Julia Sheetz-Willard and Rebecca Mays) with site visits and meetings. A special feature of the program was a retreat component, led by Dr. Ilene Wasserman, that engaged the Israeli women with members of a local multifaith women's group, in a process of in-depth cross-cultural interaction and dialogue.

The delegation learned from women leaders engaged in addressing issues of cultural identity, community development, economic advancement and political empowerment. Jane Golden, Founding Director of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Project, addressed the group, as did Dr. Marcia Littell of Stockton College, City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, Dr. Carolina López of Tecnológico de Monterrey (Chihuahua, Mexico), and Dr. Maureen Sier and Farkhanda Chaudry of the Scottish Government Equality Unit.

The women met with an array of government, civic, philanthropic, and educational leaders throughout the city. They were hosted by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, the Israeli Consulate, and Temple University administrators and faculty. In response to a special request by the group, Prof. Marsha Crawford of Temple’s School of Social Work arranged a session with women in the health and social work professions to address specific social concerns. The WILS delegation also visited religious sites and community service projects, including Mikveh Israel synagogue, Al-Aqsa Islamic Society, the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, the Philadelphia Beauty Showcase National Historical Museum, and Las Parcelas Community Garden.

The Dialogue Institute is continuing to work closely with Dr. Fadila and Al-Qasemi College. Staff are designing and developing a collaborative leadership-training course in gender and empowerment for young women, which will be piloted at Al-Qasemi in Spring 2010. A manual and training program for women will focus on reframing and breaking through minority status issues and embracing cross-cultural understanding and cooperation. Tentative plans are underway for a US delegation to travel to Israel for a similar cultural exchange in 2010.

For further information, please contact Dr. Julie Sheetz-Willard, DI Director, at jsheetz@temple.edu.

Members of the 2009 Israeli WILS delegation:

Dr. Dalia Fadila, Dean of Students, Deputy President, and Lecturer in English Literature at Al-Qasemi College.

Asmaa Ganayim, Head of the Information and Communication Technology Center (ICT) at Al-Qasemi College and a lecturer in the Computer Science Department at Al-Qasemi

Hala Habayib, Head of the Early Childhood Education Department at Al-Qasemi and coordinator of Staj Pre-service teacher training.

Dr. Esther Hertzog, Founder and Head of the Anthropology Studies Program at Beit Berl College and coordinator of the work of the “Women’s Parliament” in Israel.

Ragda Masalha, Director of the Center of Parenthood, Family and Community in the Arab Society at Al-Qasemi Academy.

Avril Promislow, Assistant Director of International Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee, Jerusalem Office.

Abeer Watted, Head of the Civil Engineering Department at the Technology College at Al-Qasemi and Director of the College’s Planning and Designing unit. 

Dr. Margalit Ziv, Head of the Early Childhood Department at Al-Qasemi Academy and Lecturer in the Education Department at Tel Aviv University.

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