Jerusalem as a Culturally Competent City 2016

Jerusalem As A Culturally Competent City 2


Jerusalem – known the world over for its holiness, its history, its spirituality and its diversity.

It will also now be known for its cultural competency, the ability to enable all of Jerusalem’s diverse population to access rights and services that are guaranteed them by law.


The “Jerusalem as a Culturally Competent City” conference that was held on Tuesday, May 17, highlighted the many advances that have been made in cultural competency since we began the program together with the Jerusalem Intercultural Center in 2008. Part of the celebrations of the Jerusalem Foundation’s 50th anniversary, the conference featured 70 speakers from a broad range of social, community, welfare, education and cultural organizations and institutions, who shared their experiences and knowledge at the day-long conference, held at the Jerusalem Cinematheque. More than 300 professionals, researchers, community activists and interested residents –from municipalities, NGO’s, research institutions, the Israel Police and the IDF – participated throughout the day.


Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat opened the conference. “The starting point for any activity that we do in Jerusalem is the city’s unique DNA, which is unlike any other city in the world,” he said. When the city was founded, more than 3,000 years ago, “its gates were open to everyone, all tribes, Jewish and not…No one felt like they were a guest in Jerusalem…Everyone found their place,” he continued. It is this philosophy, where everyone finds their place, that informs us to this day.


Jerusalem As A Culturally Competent City 1


“We in Jerusalem – we are special and unique,” said Yohanna Arbib-Perugia, President of the Jerusalem Foundation, in her remarks at the conference. Turning to the audience, she said, “Your commitment to these values, your desire to make Jerusalem the best it can be, is evident by the sheer number of people sitting in this room today.”


Ms. Uzma Shakir, Director of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Human Rights of the City of Toronto, was the keynote speaker. She described the processes taking place in Toronto and throughout Canada with regards to multiculturalism and cultural competency, which include developing approaches appropriate to the vastly different population groups in Canada, from the native populations to the Francophones of Quebec to recent immigrants from south Asia and elsewhere.


After the keynote speaker, morning sessions focused on a number of issues in cultural competence, from setting policy in an organization, to developing cultural competency in the public sphere, increasing cultural competency through grassroots work in communities. A special session also focused on challenges of Jerusalem’s social and political tensions on cultural competency and service provision. The afternoon plenary session focused on visions of cultural competency in major organizations – academia, municipal welfare services, mental health care and the police. Afternoon parallel sessions focused on cultural competence in different sectors and case studies – health, arts and culture, education and community activism.


Response and reactions from the participants were overwhelmingly positive. “There was a buzz in the air, an extraordinary energy,” said one participant. “So many people, from incredibly diverse walks of life, sharing experiences and learning, respecting and doing. A fantastic success.”


Click here to watch a video of the opening session.