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The Social Work and Religious Diversity conference introduces social service and mental health care providers to religious diversity by introducing them to their colleagues from diverse faith traditions.  We are thrilled to be working with an extraordinary group of faith-based service providers, clergy members, and community leaders as presenters for the May 10th conference on Religion, Spirituality, and Family Life.  Our conference speakers will be:


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Rev. Dr. Willard W. C. Ashley, Sr. is Dean of the Seminary and Associate Professor of Practical Theology at New Brunswick Theological Seminary, as well as the Founder and Senior pastor of the Abundant Joy Community Church in Jersey City, New Jersey. In addition to his work as a pastor and professor, he has served as a staff psychotherapist at the Riverside Church in New York City, and the Montclair Counseling Center in Upper Montclair, New Jersey.  He holds associate membership in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Group Psychotherapy Association, and the organization Black Psychiatrists of Greater New York.

Rev. DeShannon Barnes-Bowens, MS is the founder of ILERA Counseling & Education Services, where she works as a psychotherapist, professional development trainer, and spiritual counselor. Through ILERA, she offers workshops and programs focusing on sexuality and spirituality, sexual abuse, and vicarious trauma and wellness. In 2015, DeShannon revised her book, Hush Hush: An African American Family Breaks their Silence on Sexuality & Sexual Abuse for a second edition.  She is an initiated priestess in the Orisa-Ifa, Yoruba spiritual tradition, and an ordained Interfaith-Interspiritual Minister through the One Spirit Learning Alliance. She currently teaches at One Spirit, and serves as a Dean to their first year seminary students.


Anindita Chatterjee Bhaumik, LICSW, is currently a clinician in private practice with Boston Evening Therapy Associates, as well as a Reiki Master and Hindu community leader.  She has dedicated her life to raising awareness about the perils of violence and its ramifications on children, women, and families.  Anindita is a lifelong adherent of Sanatana Dharma, popularly known has Hinduism, and has been an active member of the Hindu Temple Society of North America and the Vedanta Society of New York.


Dr. Henry Goldschmidt is the Director of Programs at the Interfaith Center of New York.  He is a cultural anthropologist, community educator, and scholar of American religious diversity.  In his work at ICNY, he develops religious diversity education programs for a range of audiences, including secondary school teachers and students, social workers, and the general public.  He has also taught religious studies and cultural anthropology at Wesleyan University and elsewhere, and is the author of academic and popular works including Race and Religion among the Chosen Peoples of Crown Heights.

sheila gordonDr. Sheila C. Gordon is the founding president of Interfaith Community, an educational and community-building program for Jewish-Christian families who want to respect and support both of their religious heritages.  She has overseen the organization’s multi-chapter evolution, along with the development of its curricula for children and adults, including workshops for couples and individual counseling.  Married to a practicing Episcopalian, Dr. Gordon is a Conservative Jew who has served as co-chair of the interfaith committee of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, and as liaison for Interfaith Community with the innovative, post-denominational congregation Romemu.

faiyaz jafferSheikh Faiyaz Jaffer, MA, is an Assistant Research Scholar at the Islamic Center at New York University, and Associate Chaplain in the University’s Office of Global Spiritual Life.  He attained an MA in Islamic Studies in the UK, following a BA in Political Science and Religious Studies from SUNY Stony Brook.  In pursuing his classical Islamic education, he also studied in the prominent Seminary of Karbala, Iraq.  His research has been published in a number of academic journals, and he currently continues his fieldwork as part of the Islamic Research Institute in New York.  As a faith leader and activist, Faiyaz has lectured at universities, seminars, and workshops across the United States, Canada, Europe, East Africa, and the Middle East.


Maryum Khwaja, LCSW, works as psychotherapist at the Bleuler Psychotherapy Center in Forest Hills, Queens, and in a private practice she co-founded called Nasiha Counseling – a practice that specializes in, but is not restricted to, working with Muslim clients.  Maryum graduated from the Silver School of Social Work at New York University in 2001.  Among many other projects, she has  volunteered as a Foster Program Specialist with the New Jersey based organization Smile, developing relationships with DYFS to provide support for Muslim children and families in foster care.

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Rev. Sarah McCaslin, MDiv, LMSW, is an ordained minister and licensed social worker whose career has been devoted to fostering the human capacity for resilience, growth, and meaning-making. She graduated with dual masters degrees from Columbia University School of Social Work and Union Theological Seminary in 2006, and was ordained by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) in 2007.  She currently serves as a Resident Therapist at the Psychotherapy and Spirituality Institute, and as Waffle Church Minister at St. Lydia’s – leading services for children and families at a progressive Brooklyn dinner church.

babara joshin ohara

Sensei Barbara Joshin O’Hara, MA, LCSW, is a co-founder of the Village Zendo, along with her life-partner Roshi Enkyo O’Hara.  She began her formal Zen training in 1986 with Roshi John Daido Loori, spending three years in monastic residency at Zen Mountain Monastery, and received Dharma Transmission from Roshi O’Hara in 2006. Sensei Joshin is also a psychoanalytically trained psychotherapist.  She maintains a private practice in the West Village, and believes there is no more important work than investigating what keeps us from being fully present to our own experience.

ferzin patel

Ferzin Patel, MA, is a psychotherapist by training, Zoroastrian community leader, and Trustee of the Dar-E-Mehr Zoroastrian Temple, in Pomona, NY.  She holds a Master’s degree in Clinical and Developmental Psychology from Columbia University, and spent fifteen years working as a clinician and administrator in the field of autism and developmental disabilities.  Among other projects, she currently facilitates a support group for intermarried Zoroastrian families, and has worked with colleagues to launch the Zoroastrian Intermarried Group (ZIG), which helps couples and families acclimate to Zoroastrian cultural and religious beliefs and practices.


Dr. Mary Ragan, LCSW, is the Executive Director of the Psychotherapy and Spirituality Institute, and an Adjunct Professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work, where she regularly teaches a course on “Spirituality and Social Work.”  In addition to her work as a clinician, administrator, and educator, Dr. Ragan has served as a consultant to a wide range of faith-based and secular organizations.  Her research has explored the contours of traumatic grief, and she has done trauma work with first-responders and family members after 9/11, and with survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.


Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub, LCSW, is the Rabbinic Director of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services. He leads workshops on Jewish spiritual resources for living with illness, loss, and trauma; develops training seminars for rabbis and health care professionals; and has written and lectured widely on the use of traditional Jewish texts and practices in spiritual healing. An adjunct lecturer in Pastoral Skills at the Jewish Theological Seminary, he helped to design and now teaches in the Post-Master’s Certificate Program in Spirituality and Social Work at NYU’s Silver School of Social Work. He also maintains a private practice in couples and family therapy.