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My New Chapter

Dear Community Members,

I have had the distinct pleasure of serving the Jewish community of Howard County ever since I was hired in June 2017, when I began as Interim Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Howard County, and later as its Executive Director.

By way of this message, I want to share an exciting new chapter in my personal life with you. I have decided to retire at the expiration of my contract, on June 30, after having spent more than 40 years in the non-profit community. My wife, Marilyn, and I are ready for a new phase in our lives, while we are still healthy and energetic. We have much to explore and do in the years ahead.

Looking back on my tenure, I am gratified that I could play a role in a number of important initiatives and programs.

Foremost among them is our social services delivery program to help those in need in the county. Michalah Hoffman, MSW, tirelessly and effectively serves as our Jewish Community Social Worker. She is on-call 24/7 and has taken our social services to new heights by starting a series of therapeutic bereavement groups and support groups to combat the stresses brought on by the pandemic – while at the same time handling a full caseload of individuals with a wide-range of personal, emotional, and medical needs. Michalah, along with our two other wonderful professionals – Rabbi Amy Scheinerman, our Hospice Rabbi & Chaplain, and Rabbi Hillel Baron, our Jewish Community Chaplain – serve our community with wisdom, care, and compassion, for which we must all be grateful.

I am particularly proud of initiating the creation of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Howard County. Upon coming to the county, I immediately realized there was a void that needed to be filled, as there was no official body that represented our Jewish community with our federal, state, and local elected officials, nor with the myriad ethnic, religious, and cause-based groups and coalitions that exist. As such, our community was not at the table in an official capacity, and our JCRC filled that void – as do 100+ other local JCRCs nation-wide. In designing the JCRC, we made certain that every local congregation was represented and that we supplemented the council with subject-experts and other community activists. It has been a true pleasure to see how the JCRC has flourished, attributable in large part to its skilled and effective chair, Betsy Singer Marcus.

In 2019, we also hired Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies to undertake a comprehensive community study. This survey shed important light on the demographics and trends in our community. Our Federation Board is using the data to develop new strategic plans and programs, a process that should be completed in 2021. We have a diverse Jewish community, and there are challenges and opportunities in a number of areas, but I am confident our Board and our talented staff will act well and wisely in the coming years, guided by these trends and the needs of the community.

As for our Federation staff, I have hired just about every member of our current staff. Having worked in the non-profit arena for 42 years, I know talent when I see it. Our local community is incredibly fortunate to have these dedicated professionals working for our federation. They are smart, talented, dedicated, and just plain mensches. I know that I leave behind a staff ready and able to take the Federation to new heights, and with your support, I know that the Federation has a bright future ahead of it. I want to name them all here, as they deserve thanks and recognition for their professional excellence, especially during the pandemic:

  • Michalah Hoffman, Jewish Community Social Worker

  • Shauna Leavey, Program Director

  • Jake Levine, Marketing & Communications Associate

  • Jamie Nelson, Administrative Assistant

  • Susan Stuart, Annual Campaign Director

  • Allison Weil, Program Associate

I also want to express sincere thanks to our Federation’s Board of Directors, to Rachael Simon, our devoted President, and especially to Beth Millstein, our Immediate Past President, with whom I worked so closely during the first three years of my tenure. As I have told the Board, it has truly been a pleasure working with them. I want our community members to know that these Board members are all deeply committed to the Howard County Jewish community and that they spend countless hours wisely stewarding the organization on your behalf.

Finally, I thank all of you – our dedicated donors – for your support of the JFHC. We could do nothing without your financial support. For that, we are most grateful.

Ralph Grunewald Executive Director


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