By: Jeremy S. Gaies, Psy.D., and Adam B. Cordover, J.D., M.A.
It all started back in 2014. In preparation for a personal trip to Israel, Jeremy reached out to a Collaborative lawyer in Ramat Gan, Israel, by the name of Idith Schaham. Idith welcomed Jeremy and introduced him to her colleagues at the Ramat Gan Municipal Center where she had previously initiated a model pro bono Collaborative program. The program, which receives financial aid from the city of Ramat Gan, provides Collaborative Practice services to families that have low-income levels, as well as to families facing drug abuse, domestic violence, or mental health issues.
Two years later, in 2016, Jeremy made another visit to Israel. During that trip, he was introduced by Idith to her practice group, the Adler Institute, where he met a number of wonderful Collaboratively-minded colleagues. This visit further established a link between Collaborative practitioners in Tampa Bay and Israel.
Flash forward another two years. Jeremy asked his training partners at Tampa Bay Collaborative Trainers if any of them might want to join him on a third Collaborative venture in Israel. Adam Cordover, the lead attorney trainer, quickly said, “Yes!” So, in December of 2018, Adam and Jeremy boarded an El Al flight and made their way to Tel Aviv for several trainings and workshops arranged in advance by Idith Schaham. (The three Collaborative professionals had spent many hours over the preceding months communicating by Skype to develop and fine-tune the programs.)
As Adam and Jeremy soon learned, the scheduling and execution of these types of programs are more fluid in Israel than in the United States. One of the trainings was cancelled on the day that Adam and Jeremy arrived, but two other training options popped up at the last minute!
The first event was a lecture at Bar Ilan University. The attendees were graduate-level students in a Conflict Resolution program, and they came from a wide variety of disciplines. (For example, one student was a physician, another worked for the police department, and several were professionals in human relations.) The instructor for the course, Professor Michal Alberstein, is a renowned expert in Conflict Resolution, and she not only welcomed Jeremy and Adam to her class but also met with them and with their host, Idith, afterwards at a cafe for a lengthy conversation about Collaborative Divorce. If you are interested in taking a look at some videos from this lecture, please feel free to check out the Tampa Bay Collaborative Trainers Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1606789979359264/.
The second event was a presentation at the Founding Forum of (Municipal) Collaborative Divorce Centers. This was a very exciting event, as it was the first time that the staff members of these public sector centers had gathered together to network and share information about their Collaborative Divorce work. Jeremy presented on, “Practical Implications of Interpersonal Dynamics Within the Collaborative Team,” and Adam discussed, “From Full Teams to Whole Teams: Collaborative Practice Elevated.” The presentations were well received, and Jeremy and Adam, too, learned a great deal from the other presenters and from the lively discussions that were an important part of this inaugural event. (Disclaimer: Given that these discussions were in animated, rapid-fire Hebrew, Adam and Jeremy may not have caught every word, but with a little translation assistance, they got the gist!)
Following the Founding Forum, Idith provided Adam with the opportunity that Jeremy had years ago, to visit the model pro bono program at the Ramat Gan Municipal Center. Idith introduced Adam to Rachel Vladomirsky, the co-founder of the model pro bono Collaborative program. Rachel took Adam on a tour of the rooms where parents meet to resolve their disputes, and the playrooms and observatory lounges where social workers gather with children and help parents craft routines and schedules that are best for children. Adam found it interesting that the rooms where Collaborative meetings took place contained no conference room tables; rather, they were filled with couches and comfortable chairs. The idea was to provide a relaxed and less formal setting to lower the stress levels during difficult discussions. This was quite different from the lawyerly conference rooms filled with big, imposing tables and executive chairs where Adam is used to conducting such meetings.
Later on, Idith took Adam to a former courthouse in Ramat Gan, a building that now houses various municipal services. There he met with social workers who are employed by the municipality to help families going through divorce. He shared with them his experience with Collaborative Divorce in Florida, and the social workers shared with Adam their experience helping families in Israel through the court system. The social workers were shocked to learn that, unlike in Israel, each divorcing family in Florida is not assigned a social worker. To them, it is apparent that emotions play a key role in divorce and thus the role of social workers is obvious; in Florida, it can often be challenging to convince traditionally-minded lawyers that mental health professionals have an essential role to play in divorce.
In between the meeting with Collaborative colleagues and divorce professionals, Adam and Jeremy took side trips, together and separately, throughout the country. From the deserts of the Negev to the mountains of the Golan Heights, from the ancient holy sites of Jerusalem to the modern skyscrapers and beaches of Tel Aviv, from the Jewish centers of Tzfat to the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, from the Ba’hai Gardens of Haifa to the multifaith tours of Jaffa, this was truly an incredible trip.
Jeremy and Adam are grateful to our host and co-trainer, Idith Schaham, for ensuring that we had this excellent and meaningful adventure and helping us make connections with our Israeli Collaborative colleagues! Perhaps another trip in 2020?
Jeremy S. Gaies, Psy.D., is a licensed psychologist and certified family mediator who specializes in helping divorcing families pursue peaceful solutions through his work in parenting coordination and Collaborative Divorce. Dr. Gaies has participated in multiple local, state, and international committees advancing the Collaborative movement. He is a director of Tampa Bay Academy of Collaborative Professionals, a member of Next Generation Divorce, and a primary trainer with Tampa Bay Collaborative Trainers. Dr. Gaies is also the author of A Clear and Easy Guide to Collaborative Divorce and the co-author of Mindful Co-Parenting: A Child-Friendly Path Through Divorce. http://TampaBayCollaborativeTrainers.com
Adam B. Cordover, J.D., M.A., is a Collaborative attorney, trainer, and Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Law Mediator who practices exclusively in private dispute resolution in Tampa, Florida. Adam is a member of the Board of Directors of the IACP, and a Past President of Next Generation Divorce, growing it to become the largest local collaborative practice group in North America. He is also a co-Chair and Instructor for the Leadership Institute of the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals and a primary trainer with Tampa Bay Collaborative Trainers. Adam is co-author with Forrest (Woody) Mosten of the American Bar Association Book Building A Successful Collaborative Family Law Practice (2018). http://FamilyDiplomacy.com and http://TampaBayCollaborativeTrainers.com.