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Joshua Epstein (1915-1996)

Joshua (Josh) Epstein was born on April 25, 1915 in New York City. He resided in New York metropolitan area until 1953. He graduated from the City College of New York in 1936 and the New York School of Social Work (Columbia University) in 1947. He was employed by the New York City Department of Public Welfare in the 1930’s and the Jewish Board of Guardians from 1947-1953. His social work career was interrupted by service in the Army Air Corp during World War II.

He moved to Philadelphia in 1953, and became administrator of the Children’s Psychiatric Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. He stayed in Philadelphia for two years. In 1955, he became the Director of Social Work at the Allentown State Hospital. He and his family moved to Bethlehem where he became involved in NASW as a charter member. He held a number of elected and appointed offices in the Lehigh Valley Chapter of NASW, including President, and in 1979, was named Social Worker of the Year of the Lehigh Valley Chapter for his work in upholding the highest standards of social work practice.

Mr. Epstein became a leader in the expanded role of social workers in the State hospital system. He also recruited a number of African-American social workers to positions at Allentown State Hospital. He was a strong advocate for social work education and became a mentor for a number of young people seeking a career in social work. Mr. Epstein was instrumental in the implementation of the community-based services for persons with mental illness during the shift from institutional based care to outpatient care in the 1970’s and early 80’s. He retired in 1984 from the hospital, but remained active in his profession by serving as an interim director for the local Jewish social service agency.

He died on June 17, 1996.

Social Work Pioneer - 1997

NASW