NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Harry Greenstein (1896 - 1971)
Harry Greenstein made groundbreaking efforts in humane and efficient public welfare administration in Maryland during the Depression, administration of refugee resettlement in Europe after World War II, and provided visionary leadership on behalf of social work education in the state of Maryland.
His first contact with social welfare came in 1916 when he participated in efforts by the American Jewish Relief Committee to aid people devastated by World War I (WWI). This experience had deep meaning to him and must have impressed Lewis H. Levin (Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital is named after him), the director of The Associated Jewish Charities (The Associated), since, in 1922, he was asked to assume the presidency of the Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA). He played a major role in building The Associated Jewish Charities with a structure that is useful today.
Mr. Greenstein also played a major role in developing Maryland state welfare services during The Depression. He became Maryland’s first Welfare Director. In 1933, he played a key role in constructing the Baltimore Council of Social Agencies (BCSA). It was also known as the Health and Welfare Council. From this pulpit he urged that Maryland get a school of social work. and in creating a state public welfare department.
In July 1948, Mr. Greenstein joined William Haber,an advisor to the army on Jewish affairs in Germany and Austria, as a special consultant. They did not have an accurate count of how many displaced Jewish refugees there were. With his usual efficiency Harry recruited a staff and shortly delivered a report that was accepted as accurate. He returned home but in February 1949 he was asked by General Lucius Clay to replace Haber. He now had a rank equivalent to a major general. The Displaced Persons (DP) camps and the people in them were not in good condition. There were problems with de-nazification and anti-Semitism. He set about trying to make the camps more livable and to work to have the DPs emigrate so that the camps could eventually be closed.
In the early 1950s, he led meetings with University of Maryland officials in an effortfort to secure support for the idea of establishing a school of social work. In 1958, Gordon Manser, head of the Council of Social Agencies, appointed Greenstein to head the committee that made the final push to establish the school.