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Social Work and Religious Diversity:

Religion, Spirituality, and Family Life


A Continuing Education Conference for Social Workers and their Colleagues

Sponsored by the Interfaith Center of New York, with the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services and the Psychotherapy and Spirituality Institute

Wednesday, May 10, 2017   •   475 Riverside Drive, New York, NY



Participation and Credits:

The Social Work and Religious Diversity conference is open to all mental health and social service professionals and graduate students, as well as faith leaders, community activists, chaplains, pastoral counselors, and others working to address social and clinical issues.  All are welcome to join the conversation – not just social workers.

The conference is designed, however, to meet the needs of New York State licensed social workers. Participants will be eligible to receive seven continuing education contact hours, approved by the New York State Education Department to meet LMSW and LCSW licensing requirements.

The Interfaith Center of New York SW CPE is recognized by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers – provider # 0163.


Registration Costs:

The Social Work and Religious Diversity conference has a base registration rate of $130, which includes lunch, snacks, conference materials, and a certificate of completion.  In addition, there is an administrative fee of $30 for participants who wish to receive continuing education credit hours that satisfy New York State LM/LCSW licensing requirements.  Discounted registration and fees are available to the following participants:

  • 10% discount for staff people at agencies or organizations registering 3 or more participants

  • 25% discount for staff people at our partner organizations, the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services and the Psychotherapy and Spirituality Institute

  • 50% discount for full time graduate students in any social service or mental health field (MSW, PhD, PsyD, MDiv, etc).

Sorry if this is a bit confusing, but we are working to make the conference accessible to a wide range of participants.  Please contact us if you have any questions about registration costs.

Refunds will be available, with a $20 processing fee, for cancellations up to April 30, 2017.  No refunds will be available after April 30, 2017.


Conference Location:

The conference will be held in the first floor meeting rooms of the Interchurch Center, at 475 Riverside Drive, in Morningside Heights. The main entrance is on Claremont Avenue, between 119th and 120th Streets.  For directions by car or public transportation, here it is on Google Maps:




Conference Program:


8:30 – 9:00            Welcome and Registration

Please plan to arrive by 8:45, as the opening session of the conference will start promptly at 9:00.  Coffee, tea, and snacks will be available for participants.


9:00 – 11:00          Plenary Panel: The Religious Lives of New York Families

Religion and spirituality are often mistakenly described as strictly personal, interior phenomena – matters of the individual heart, mind, or soul.  But in fact,       the religious lives of New Yorkers are inextricably tied to our relationships with families, friends, and loved ones.  Religious beliefs and values provide the moral foundation of many traditional (and not-so-traditional) family systems, while religious rituals and exper­iences imbue the daily rhythms of family life with sacred depth and significance.  These intimate ties between religion, spirituality, and the family are an empowering source of strength for some New Yorkers, an oppress­ive hierarchical order for others, and a complex issue for us all, given the increasing diversity of our society and families alike.  Our plenary panel will explore these issues through discussions of Jew­ish, Christian, Hindu, and Muslim family life.  The speakers will be:
  • Dr. Henry Goldschmidt, Director of Programs, Interfaith Center of New York

  • Anindita Chatterjee Bhaumik, LICSW, Clinician in Private Practice with Boston Evening Therapy Associates; Reiki Master; and Hindu Community Leader

  • Maryum Khwaja, LCSW, Psychotherapist at the Bleuler Psychotherapy Center; Co-Founder of Nasiha Counseling

  • Rev. Sarah McCaslin, MDiv, LMSW, Resident Therapist at the Psychotherapy and Spirit­uality Institute; Waffle Church Minister at St. Lydia’s

  • Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub, LCSW, Rabbinic Director, Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services


11:00 – 11:10        Coffee and Snack Break


11:10 – 12:00        Comparative Reflection on the Sacred Dimensions of Family Life

With guidance from a worksheet, conference participants will reflect on the sacred dimensions of their own family lives.  What beliefs and values help support their family system?  What practices and exper­iences make their home a sacred space?  Whether participants are religious, secular, or spiritual – and regardless of how they define the term “family” – they will be asked to compare their own family life with those of the families described by our plenary speakers.  Partici­pants will discuss their comp­arative self-reflection in small groups, highlighting both the simil­arities and differences in the lives of religious, secular, and spiritual New Yorkers.

12:00 – 1:00          Lunch – No Formal Program, Just Quality Time with Colleagues

A catered lunch will be available for all conference participants, including vegetarian, kosher, and other options.  We hope you enjoy this opportunity to meet colleagues who share your interest in religion, spirituality, and social work.


1:00 – 2:20            Interfaith Families:  Religious Diversity at Home

Our first afternoon panel will explore the distinctive issues social service and mental health care pro­viders may face in working with interfaith families.  How do interfaith couples negotiate the boundaries between their respective religious traditions?  How do their children learn to respect, and sometimes embrace, both sides of their complex heritage?  What kinds of support do they receive – and what kinds of resistance do they face – from their faith communities?  Our panelists will explore these issues from Jewish, Muslim, and Zoroastrian perspectives, including discussions of families that bridge the diff­erences between faith traditions, as well as families that bridge ethnic or doctrinal differences within a single faith tradition.  The speakers will be:
  • Dr. Sheila C. Gordon, Founder and President of Interfaith Community

  • Sheikh Faiyaz Jaffer, MA, Assistant Research Scholar at the Islamic Center at New York University; and Associate Chaplain in the University’s Office of Global Spiritual Life

  • Ferzin Patel, MA, Psychotherapist, Community Leader, and Trustee of the Dar-E-Mehr Zoroastrian Temple


2:20 – 2:30            Coffee and Snack Break


2:30 – 3:50            Faith Families:  Religious Kinship Beyond the Nuclear Family

Our final panel will explore the ways that faith communities themselves function as families for many New Yorkers – providing mutual support, social identity, and psychologically formative relationships.  It is essential for service providers to understand that their religiously diverse clients’ family ties may not be limited to the nuclear or extended family.  Faith communities often function as what scholars have called “fictive kin,” playing important roles in many New Yorkers’ lives.  Our panelists will explore these issues through discussions of African-American Christian church families, contemporary Zen Buddhist views of sangha and community, and the spiritual lineage systems that help to define African diaspora Orisha communities.  The speakers will be:
  • Rev. Dr. Willard W. C. Ashley, Sr., Dean and Associate Professor of Practical Theology at New Brunswick Theological Seminary; Founder and Senior pastor of the Abundant Joy Community Church

  • Rev. DeShannon Barnes-Bowens, MS (Iyanifa Iwalewa Fasina Oyetunde), Founder of ILERA Counseling and Education Services; First Year Dean at One Spirit Interfaith Seminary

  • Sensei Barbara Joshin O’Hara, MA, LCSW, Co-Founder of the Village Zendo; Psychoan­alytically Trained Psychotherapist in Private Practice


3:50 – 4:00             Coffee and Snack Break


4:00 – 5:00             Closing Reflections and Discussion

Following a brief presentation by a leading social work educator, participants will reflect on the key points of the con­ference in small group conversations and a facilitated town-hall discussion.  What, we will ask, have we learned from today’s speakers, and from each other?  What can we take back to our practice?  How can social workers best support the religiously diverse families they serve?  The conversa­tion will be framed and facilitated by:
  • Dr. Mary Ragan, LCSW, Executive Director of the Psychotherapy and Spirituality Institute; Adjunct Professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work




Click here to register for the conference.

Click here to print or download the conference program.

Click here to print or download a flyer to share with colleagues.

Click here to contact us with any questions.