We spoke with Michalah Hoffman, the Jewish Federation's new Jewish Community Social Worker, about her dynamic role and what she loves most about her work.
JFHC: Hi Michalah! We’re excited to have you here as our new Jewish Community Social Worker. Please tell us about your role and the work you will be doing.
MH: My job as Jewish Community Social Worker is three-fold: First, I evaluate requests for emergency funding and forward them to the Jewish Emergency Network (JEN) committee, who then process them. I also work with the Howard County Board of Rabbis, determining the needs of their congregants and providing case management to help them maneuver resources. The third part of my job is working with seniors and assessing their needs.
JFHC: What’s an example of the kind of work you do with seniors?
MH: For seniors, I assess their situations: Are they safe living by themselves? What resources can we bring into the home to make people safe? Are they hungry? Do they need assistance getting to doctor appointments?
JFHC: Please tell us a bit about your professional background.
MH: I’ve lived between Maryland and Pennsylvania my whole life and I’ve been a social worker for 25 years. The first half of my career was in CPS (child protective services), foster care, and adoption. I did that for 15 years in Baltimore County. The last 10 years of my career, I specialized in hospice.
Fifteen years ago, I also founded an organization called the Jewish Relief Center (JRC). At the time I was living in a poorer neighborhood in Pennsylvania outside Amish country. There were some Jewish people in need who were kind of hidden and scattered throughout the community, so I opened the JRC to help them. I wrote grants, became familiar with the local Department of Social Services, and worked with other nonprofits to provide people with things like food, school supplies, and rental assistance.
My experience with the JRC spurred me to take on the role of Jewish Community Social Worker at the Jewish Federation, which is similar kind of work, requiring a similar skill set.
JFHC: What inspires you at work?
MH: Watching people get well—seeing the hope in their eyes.
JFHC: How do you plan to bring Jewish values into your role?
MH: I have a very strong loyalty to a Torah way of life and God. Also, respect and dignity—that was the mission statement of the JRC I founded. Integrity to all humanity. In particular, it is important to me to bring respect and dignity to the elderly population in Howard County.
JFHC: What do you like to do for fun?
MH: I like to go to the beach. My best friend lives in the Caribbean, and I love visiting there. I also love spending time with my children, who are 20 and 19.
JFHC: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?
MH: Pesach—I love the seder and the different foods. I also love the springtime and the feeling that spring is coming. I’m a sundress, flip-flops kind of person.
JFHC: What would you say is the Jewish value that speaks to you most?
MH: Defending the underdog. I guess my relationship with God has allowed me to be bold—to speak justice when there’s been injustice. It’s probably what has made me a social worker, the injustices and assisting people with justice.
You can reach Michalah at MHoffman@JewishHowardCounty.org or 410-730-4976 x120.