Get to Know Karen Oppenheimer


Baltimore native Karen Oppenheimer spent the first half of her professional career providing mental health services to children, adolescents and adults in a variety of settings. As a licensed clinical social worker with a second graduate degree in education, Karen later pursued her interests and skills in working with students with disabilities and student affairs issues and concerns in higher education. 

Karen Oppenheimer

So, it’s no surprise that when she retired in 2018 as the Associate Dean for Student Affairs at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, Karen decided to begin this next chapter of her life as an active volunteer in the Baltimore Jewish Community.

How do you stay busy?

In addition to sitting on several boards including Jewish Community Services (JCS) and Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom (HS-OSC), I am an active member of The Associated’s Jewish Women’s Giving Foundation (JWGF) and Associated Women’s Chapter Two program. I also take classes of interest through CCBC and private courses and participate in many synagogue-related committees.

And then there is our adorable two-year-old son, Alex, who is our only grandchild and the light of our lives.

Coming full circle

Initially, I had reached out to JCS to see if I could be of service in any way. Given my background as a social worker, I have a clear understanding of the goals, mission and services JCS provides, and those truly speak to my heart. Additionally, when I was in my first master’s program many years ago, I had an internship at what was then called Jewish Family and Children Services. So, when I contacted JCS, it was because I wanted the opportunity to give back to them since they were there for me when I was in school learning to do what I do.

What about your involvement in JWGF?

I became involved with JWGF in 2020, during the pandemic. I was most proud of our decision to partially fund an organization in Africa that wants to create a program to address “period poverty” for targeted communities. “Period poverty” is a topic I am now passionate about addressing in our own backyard which led me to The Associated’s Dignity Grows chapter. Dignity Grows, a national initiative sponsored by various Jewish Federations, provides women in need personal hygiene products.  I coordinated an upcoming program with Dignity Grows and HS-OSC for HS-OSC’s Women’s Seder. We are proud to be the first synagogue in Baltimore to partner with Dignity Grows.   

In between your volunteer commitments, is there anything else you look forward to doing?

Definitely travel! We absolutely love traveling and have missed it so much during the pandemic. My husband and I have been enjoying planning future travel vacations. We hope to attend the Albuquerque Balloon Festival in the fall of 2022 and spend a month visiting New Zealand and Australia in 2023, if the pandemic allows us to do so.

Karen Oppenheimer

Speaking of the pandemic, how have you pivoted during these challenging times?

My husband, Joel, and I have a mantra we state often which is “different is good.” During the pandemic, it was challenging for most of us to be creative and get out of routine activities. Our “different is good” mantra encourages us to use our brains differently as much as possible, try new experiences as much as possible and learn and grow by doing things we wouldn’t have necessarily thought of at the moment.


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The Associated is a home for everyone in the Baltimore Jewish community. We offer several email lists to help people find a community, engage with their peers and support Jewish journeys around the world.

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