Jewish agency's new director has aggressive goals Services to young, immigrants top list

September 20, 1993|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Staff Writer

When he was younger, Steve Shaw idolized Mickey Mantle and wanted to play for the New York Yankees, his hometown team. He rode the bus to 40 games a year from what was then the Jewish-German community of Washington Heights in Manhattan.

"It's every kid's dream to be a baseball player," said the former national executive director for the Jewish War Veterans of the USA, the nation's oldest veteran's organization.

Decades later, the 41-year-old Jewish activist has signed on as a heavy-hitter for Howard County's fast-growing Jewish community.

On July 1, he became the first full-time executive director for the 26-year-old Jewish Federation of Howard County, an umbrella organization for local Jewish groups.

For years, the federation operated with a part-time director who also worked for the Associated Jewish Charities in Baltimore.

But earlier this year, the federation's board of directors decided to hire a full-time director to serve the county's 8,500-member Jewish community.

Mr. Shaw brings years of experience with Jewish organizations, and soon plans to move to Howard County from Montgomery County with his wife of 10 years, Beth-Carol.

"Hiring a full-time director is a big step," said Rabbi Martin Siegel of the Columbia Jewish Congregation. "I think it's a very hopeful step and very important maturation toward the development of the full community."

Mr. Shaw has begun to put together an aggressive agenda for thefederation. Among his priorities: increased services for the young and for recent Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

"For the floodgates to open and to see Jewish victims of anti-Semitism. . . . come out is a modern day miracle," he said in an interview at his office in The Meeting House on Robert Oliver Place in Columbia.

Increased fund raising for the county's Jewish community is another goal.

The federation contracts with the Jewish Family Services of Central Maryland for several services, including adolescent and adult counseling, and immigrant resettlement services.

If the federation had more money, it could meet more needs, he said.

Mr. Shaw also would like members of the local Jewish community to think of Howard County as its own cultural center, in addition to the well-established Jewish communities in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

The federation must raise its profile in the county, he said, adding that most people know it only through the group's annual fund-raising events.

"I really don't think people really know who we are," he said. "They don't know our involvement."

Already, Mr. Shaw has met with rabbis and other local Jewish leaders. He said he wants the federation to become a true representative body for the county's Jewish community.

Lucy Steinitz, executive director for Jewish Family Services, which serves 200 Jewish families here annually, said she's pleased with Mr. Shaw's selection.

"I'm thrilled that the Jewish Federation of Howard County is investing in a full-time director in the hope that this portends a stronger community in the future," she said. "It's a challenge and an opportunity."

Mr. Shaw relishes that challenge, saying the changes he wants to make will take time, money and community support.

He draws a parallel between his new job and his own cultural awakening at State College of New York in Albany, where he minored in Judaistic studies.

After the war between the Arabs and Israelis in 1967, Mr. Shaw worked to establish Jewish identity on campus. He and other Jewish students convinced the school to close during Jewish holidays, get a kosher kitchen and establish a Judaistic Studies Department.

That experience taught him a valuable lesson.

"People should be active, and give back to the community," he said.

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