LilaTovCocktail: Ingredients: one part NE Ohio; two parts politics; two parts media, and one part each: culture, family & the Jewish community. Directions: Shake well.

Herman Stein: 60 years as an advisor to students, statemen, and social workers


by Lila Hanft Cleveland Jewish News 10/19/07

In his remarkable 60-year career, Dr. Herman D. Stein has touched the lives of more Jews
around the world than any other living Clevelander.

He has advised students and statesmen. His work has improved the lives of Jews in Europe, North Africa, Israel, and the U.S. He has helped shape the mission and organization of dozens of prominent institutions, including UNICEF, The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), Case Western Reserve University, and Cleveland’s city government.

Cleveland Mayor Carl Stokes considered his advice so valuable that when Stein was considering taking a job at Columbia University, Stokes wrote the university asking them not to hire Stein away from Cleveland.

“Dr. Stein is one of Cleveland’s treasures,” says Pam Carson, director of alumni relations for the Mandel School of Applied Social Science (MSASS), where Stein became dean in 1964. Carson is coordinating MSASS’s upcoming celebration of the 90-year-old Stein, which is less a celebration of his great age than a celebration of his great achievements, she says.

As he sits in the living room of his home on Van Aken Blvd., Stein, a pioneer in the field of international social work education, is surrounded by souvenirs of the many countries he’s lived in and visited, including 87 dolls from 50 countries. He waves away Carson’s praise with typical humility. “I was very fortunate,” he says. “I was given great opportunities.”
“Spending time in the Third World gave me a sense of how much there is to learn and how many, many mistakes are made because [Americans] didn’t learn.”
--Herman Stein
Stein was a young professor at what is now Columbia University School of Social Work in 1947, when he got a call from the JDC inviting him to work with Jewish survivors in post-WW II Europe. “News about what had really happened during the Holocaust had finally made its way to the United States, and it was bad, far worse than had first been reported. Tales came rushing through the media,” he recalls. “The Jewish world in the U.S. was inflamed and willing to do anything, rescue anyone.”

Stein, who badly wanted to enlist during the war but was classified 4F due to a hip injury, couldn’t turn the opportunity down. He was 30 years old, with a new wife and an academic position at a time when they were scarce; senior professors warned him he’d be hurting a promising career.

An American abroad

Nevertheless, Stein and his wife Charmion moved to JDC’s Paris headquarters to help plan and coordinate assistance to survivors and displaced persons. Americans were pouring money into JDC n its income increased from $25 million in 1945 to more than $70 million in 1948 n but there was little guidance for JDC employees working in the field. Within six months, Stein was directing a welfare department charged with figuring out “what to do with the cash and the tons of food and clothing.”

“It was a chaotic period,” Stein later reported to the JDC. “Tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors were in DP camps,” needing health care, food, clothing, education and help with immigration. Hundreds of children, orphaned or separated from their families, needed quality care.

“The pathos in their stories was beyond understanding,” Stein recalls.

Read the rest of this story at the Cleveland Jewish News

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