Between tradition and modernity: Social work-related change processes in the Jewish ultra-orthodox society in Israel

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The present research attempts to present the experience of the encounter between Jewish ultra-orthodox society - a closed and isolated group - and social work - with its cultural, western, secular and professional characteristics. The study explores this topic by describing the work and experience of the social workers who treat this population, and the encounter's meaning for them. This experiential and challenging encounter is exemplified through different social work contents such as: child sex abuse, miscarriage, adolescent girls in distress, mental health, divorce, etc. A qualitative-phenomenological approach was adopted in this study. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with 33 social workers with different religious identities in daily contact with ultra-orthodox Jewish clients across the country. Participants included 6 men and 27 women. A total of 9 participants defined themselves as ultra-orthodox, 13 were national religious, and 11 were secular, with 1-20 years' experience. Three major themes emerged: 1. Community and social change processes in the ultra-orthodox society. 2. Treatment content-related change processes in the ultra-orthodox society. 3. Change processes in the ultra-orthodox society and the role of social work in the ultra-orthodox-public environment. Multicultural sensitivity is the starting point when relating to the encounter between an ultra-orthodox client and a social worker. An awareness of the social worker's personal values, acquaintance with the client's personal and community values, and the encounter between them are crucial factors for treatment success.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)422-433
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Intercultural Relations
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2013


  • Change processes
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Intercultural
  • Social work intervention
  • Ultra-orthodox society

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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