History of the School


The Paul Baerwald School of Social Work and Social Welfare at the Hebrew University was established in 1958 and offered the first BSW program in Israel. The program was supported jointly by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the Ministry of Welfare and the Tel Aviv Municipality.  The school itself was named after Paul Baerwald (1871—1961), who was a leader of the American Jewish community and one of the founders of the JDC.  He devoted his life to humanitarian causes and philanthropic activities on behalf of the Jewish people.

The establishment of the school and its activities reflect the joint efforts of the Hebrew University and the JDC to further social work education and research in Israel. The JDC provided the initial funding for the school and for the construction of the school’s original building on the Edmond J. Safra (Givat Ram) campus of the Hebrew University, where the school operated prior to moving to its current location on Mt Scopus. Over the years, the JDC has continued to support the school’s activities.

Over the more than fifty years of its existence, the faculty of the school has grown, its fields of research and teaching diversified and new training programs have been opened.

From its onset, the BSW program trained social workers to work with individuals, families and communities, and to engage in policy practice in order to further social justice.

During the 1960s, a program to train immigrants with academic degrees to engage in social work was introduced. In the years since, a number of different initiatives have offered training in social work to graduates in other disciplines.

In 1970, the school inaugurated the first MSW program in Israel. The program seeks to offer social workers advanced knowledge in various fields of social work interventions, to develop the students’ research skills, to enable them to engage in advanced direct practice, and to undertake high level administrative positions within the community and the social welfare services.

During the 1970s the Joseph J. Schwartz programs for training administrators in community centers and experts on early childhood were established, in cooperation with the School of Education and with the support of the JDC.  While originally diploma programs, in the mid-1990s, these two programs became fully-fledged graduate programs that offer students from the social sciences, social work and the health professions multidisciplinary training that combines theory and applied studies.

In addition to these programs, over the last decades the school has developed a very robust and popular doctoral program which attracts top Ph.D. candidates from different disciplines and across the country, many of whom go on to serve as faculty in schools of social work in Israel and abroad.  The prestigious Ben Zvi prize for innovation and excellence among doctoral candidates was first awarded in 2011.

Today 1000 students in the BSW, MSW and Ph.D. programs study at the Paul Baerwald School of Social Work and Social Welfare. In recent years, the school has offered an MSW program retraining students with degrees in other disciplines. Joint undergraduate programs with the Faculties of Social Sciences, Humanities and Law also offered.

The school has over thirty full-time faculty, employs more than a hundred field instructors and many adjunct faculty specializing in various aspects of social work and social welfare, as well as a capable administrative staff. Today’s faculty engages in professional training, cutting-edge research and intensive engagement in social policy formulation and professional leadership in social work, civil society and the field of early childhood.

In recent years, a number of new programs and training tracks have been introduced in our various programs.  These include joint undergraduate programs with the Faculties of Social Sciences, Humanities and Law. On the graduate level, unique specializations are now offered in the fields of trauma, psychiatric rehabilitation, and infant mental health and there is a newly introduced study track in advanced community work and policy practice. These training innovations have been introduced in response to emerging needs in the field and are supported by the Laszlo N. Tauber Family Foundation and the Irving Harris Foundation.

Research continues to be a major priority at the school. The faculty and doctoral candidates engage in cutting edge research in diverse fields and employ a variety of methodological approaches. Three research centers now operate within the school, in addition to a number of research groups. The innovative research undertaken by faculty at the school has been reflected in a growing number of highly competitive national and international research grants.  Three of the four prestigious Israel Prizes for Social Work Research have been bestowed on faculty members from the Baerwald School of Social Work and Social Welfare. In addition, the Higher Education Council ranked the school highest in research quality among schools of social work in Israel.

An integral part of the Hebrew University, one of the world’s top research universities, the Paul Baerwald School of Social Work and Social Welfare remains the leading school of social work and social welfare in Israel. Drawing on a rich legacy of contribution to social work and social welfare in Israel and abroad, it is committed to maintaining its high standards of training and research and its commitment to social justice in the years to come.