Training in Culturally Congruent Care for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing/ DeafBlind Community

In June 2017, with generous funding from the Ernst & Paula Deutsch Foundation, the Zelda Foster Studies Program launched a unique and innovative three-day course in the skills, methodologies, interventions, and sensitivities needed to provide culturally congruent care to Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deafblind (D/HH/DB) clients, their families and health care providers.

Open only to PELC social workers who have had previous involvement with the Zelda Foster Studies Program, the overarching aim of the course is to develop a cadre of PELC social workers who can work effectively with the D/HH/DB community and can increase awareness of their needs in their host institutions and on their interdisciplinary teams.

According to US Census Bureau data, in the New York area alone there are an estimated 12,400 elderly deaf people (64 years of age and older). Yet until now there have been no educational programs for PELC social workers about the distinct needs of this population. In keeping with the Zelda Foster Studies Program’s mission to reduce health disparities and promote greater access to PELC services, this program will educate participants about the D/HH/DB population, their culture, their general health care needs, and the particular difficulties they face when diagnosed with complex, advanced, or life-threatening illnesses.


Susan Gerbino, PhD, LCSW

Dr. Gerbino, Clinical Professor, NYU Silver School of Social Work, directs the Zelda Foster Studies Program in Palliative and End-of- Life Care (PELC), which includes training and mentoring across the career trajectory from MSW student to advanced PELC professional. She has worked in PELC for forty years and has a private practice working with people with life-limiting illnesses and the bereaved. She received the 2014 Career Achievement Award from the Project on Death in America and the Social Work Hospice and Palliative Care Network, the 2014 Distinguished Teaching Award from the NYU Silver School of Social Work and the 2015 Quality of Life Award from the American Cancer Society and the Association of Oncology Social Work.

Ruth Aleskovsky

Ms. Aleskovsky has been an American Sign Language interpreter for over 35 years working across the US with diverse cultures with a concentration in creating access and equality in health care for the Deaf. She has created and run pilot programs in higher education and in community levels. She is a published author and helped establish the US protocols for safe work environments for Interpreters. She has written numerous successful grants that funded work training programs for Deaf adults and basic needs in refugee camps for Deaf woman with AIDS in Kenya as well as training programs in New York State for Deaf home health aides. She has trained and mentored many young interpreters and is developing a training program about vicarious trauma and ASL interpreting. Ms. Aleskovsky works full time as a freelance interpreter and consultant in the NY area for hospitals and universities.

Dr. Judith Lauterstein

Dr. Lauterstein is a psychoanalyst in private practice. Dr. Lauterstein has been an advocate for the Deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing, a researcher, grassroots organizer, fundraiser, group leader, coordinator, and trainer over the last 40 years. She helped design, establish and run pilot treatment model programs for the deaf at Beth Israel Medical Center. She was chairman of New York State ad hoc task force to recommend health service delivery to the Deaf and Deafblind population. She was director of the Deaf Hospice program for ten years, coordinating care for Deaf and Deafblind individuals all over the state of New York. Dr. Lauterstein also established the first home health aide training program for Deaf adults for the Northeastern seaboard of the US. Today 50 Deaf home health aides are working in Deaf homes in need.

Ingrid Benyaminowich, LMSW

Ms. Benyaminowich attended Hunter College for her MSW and Gallaudet University where she majored in Deaf Studies and graduated with honors. A social worker who is hard of hearing, Ms. Benyaminowich has garnered diverse experience working for a variety of institutions in New York as a crisis counselor and as a case manager in Deaf preventative services. She also created and ran a recreation program for children and adults who were disabled, and provided crisis intervention and Housing services at the Department of Aging. She is fluent in three languages: English, Norwegian and American Sign Language

Christina Curry, MA

Christina Curry is the Executive Director for the Harlem Independent Living Center (HILC) in Harlem, NY since 2001, having joined in 1999 as the Program Director. Ms. Curry began her career in rehabilitation as an advocate for minority Deaf, Hard of Hearing communities (Lexington Center for the Deaf). Ms. Curry transitioned to the mental health field as a Mental Health Counselor working with Deaf, Hard of Hearing domestic violence victims/survivors (Barrier Free Living Domestic Violence Non Residential Program) while working with the minority disabled community at a Brooklyn outpatient mental health facility on the weekends.

Ms. Curry was appointed to the Executive Board of the NYS Commission for the Blind and the Interagency Council for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Deaf-Blind by Governor Paterson. She also serves on Community board 10/Harlem as the Secretary to the board in addition to the Health and Human Services committee and the LGBTQ task force, The National Council Of Independent Living subcommittee on emergency preparedness and The New York State HIV advisory Board (subcommittee on social determinants).

Ms. Curry received her Masters’ Degree from the NYU Deafness Rehabilitation program and her undergraduate degree from The Hunter College education program.

John Diaz-Chermack, M.S.

Mr. Diaz-Chermack is the Assistant Administrator and compliance officer of Hospice of New York and is responsible for overseeing all aspects of hospice operations including compliance, budget management, direct oversight of administration, provider relations, human resources, referrals, IT and volunteer departments. Mr. Diaz-Chermack has worked extensively as a private consultant aiding health care providers in the development and execution of hospice inpatient units. He also served as the senior vice president for facilities and planning for Continuum Hospice care/Jacob Perlow Hospice where he opened a variety of hospice units in the five boroughs, including the administration of the nation’s only Deaf Hospice Program and the Ryan White AIDS program. As a founding member of Christ House (provides housing, psychosocial support and educational opportunities for refugees seeking asylum) and the Foundation for Hospices in Sub-Saharan Africa, Mr. Diaz-Chermack brings a domestic and international perspective of the challenges facing healthcare workers. He is fluent in English and Spanish.

Rabbi Yehoshua Soudakoff

Rabbi Yehoshua Soudakoff is the founder and executive director of the Jewish Deaf Foundation which aims to bring innovative Jewish educational projects and programs to the Deaf community, all fully accessible in sign language.

Rabbi Soudakoff attended Yeshivas Nefesh Dovid, the world's only Jewish high school program for deaf boys, located in Toronto, Canada. He graduated with the class of 2009. He subsequently attended Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim Lubavitch - Chovevei Torah's semicha program and graduated with a rabbinical degree in the winter of 2012.

When he is not online, he spends much of his time running Jewish programming for deaf people in locales as varied as Rochester, NY or Moscow, Russia. In the summer of 2013, he started a camp program in Moscow for Jewish Deaf boys from Russia.