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Pride of Judea head retires after 24 years

In 1980 Held was living in Great Neck and raising...

By Sophia Chang

Paula Held, who was the director of Pride of Judea Community Services Center in Douglaston for 24 years before her retirement this week, began her affiliation with the Pride of Judea almost by accident.

In 1980 Held was living in Great Neck and raising her family. She was very active in the community and with the Board of Education when she got word that the non-sectarian mental health services center’s then director, Dr. Melvin Sharfman, was planning to expand its programs and needed civic input.

“So I came in just as a favor, and they offered me a job,” Held said. “I said I wasn’t coming here for a job.” But as Held wrote in the center’s spring newsletter, “I was so impressed with what I had already learned about the Pride of Judea that I considered the offer.”

She agreed to start working part time as the director of communications, beginning nearly a quarter century of leadership at the Pride of Judea, located at 243-02 Northern Blvd. “Within a few weeks I knew I had found a home here. I loved it here,” Held said, who now lives in North Shore Towers.

As of Thursday, Held was to have stepped down as director of the center, a position she has embraced since her first year there. She cited a desire to spend more time with her family, including her husband, whom she married last year. “I’m stepping down because I didn’t want to work the hours,” Held said. “I felt that I was on call 24/7.”

“It’s a happy time in my life,” Held added. “It’s nice to be able to have a choice to do something when you want to, to have options.”

She will continue her work with Pride’s parent agency, Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, working part time on capital campaign development at the Manhattan headquarters after the summer. Shoshana Garber, her replacement, is a social worker with an “extensive career as a health care professional with a background in administration, performance improvement, quality assurance and program oversight,” according to the center’s newsletter.

“I think they’ve picked the right person,” Held said of the board’s appointment of Garber, a health care consultant. “I like her attitude. I think it will be a successful transition.”

Held leaves an impressive list of accomplishments over the past 24 years as director, including improving patient services, increasing outreach and bolstering community relations. She is especially proud of the 1997 creation of the popular Club Pride, a social network and support group for mentally ill older adults, the recent introduction of Orthodox Jewish case workers to accommodate the particular needs of that population and the smooth expansion of the center in 1990, which included the addition of a third floor to serve the 400 to 500 clients who visit the center each week.

“When you know that you’ve touched lives, that makes it all worthwhile,” Held said.

She read from a goodbye card she recently received from a member of Club Pride: “‘The most important person I met here was you, Paula Held. You helped me start to trust someone again,’” and sat looking at the card wistfully for a moment.

Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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