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The Gathering Program
The RFC’s founder, Robert Meeropol, was six years old when his parents, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, were executed at the height of the McCarthy Era after one of the most hotly debated trials in U.S. history. Robert and his brother survived their nightmare in large part because of the loving and culturally rich life that was created for them by their adoptive parents, and by the progressive community who rallied to raise a trust fund to help them.
Aided by this emotional and financial support, the brothers grew up in a creative milieu, among writers, musicians, actors and other artists. They attended schools and summer camps where the Arts were valued, and found solace and kinship in these environments. So when he launched the RFC, Robert knew firsthand that the educational and cultural activities paid for by RFC grants—for example, art classes or music lessons— could provide a safe harbor for children living through traumatic and unstable circumstances.
In addition to awarding regular grants, the RFC produces in-house programs called Gatherings. Held over 4-day periods in Western Massachusetts, Gatherings offer RFC beneficiary families an array of cultural workshops along with recreational and social activities. The programming facilitates the formation of bonds between Gathering participants who have experienced similar situations as a result of the activist parents’ work for social justice.
The most recent Gathering, held in August 2011, brought twenty 18 to 24 year olds from across the country together with four peer leaders (all former RFC beneficiaries), workshop leaders, RFC Board, and staff. See a video from that event below.
Workshops included art, dance, drumming, writing, and sports/adventure games. Attendees also participated in a “Tell Your Story” session, which gave them an opportunity to talk about their families’ experiences and how they impacted their lives. In addition to a leadership grant from the Fineshriber Family Foundation, the Puffin Foundation provided support for the arts workshops, the Shana Alexander Foundation assisted with staffing, and four individuals’ generous contributions made the 2011 program possible.
The RFC has produced seven of these Gatherings. Four of these community-building events were for RFC beneficiaries aged 18-24, and the other three were for entire RFC beneficiary families (the activist parents and their school-age children.) These events exemplify the RFC’s commitment to building community and combating the isolation that makes activist families vulnerable. Gatherings also reflect the RFC’s belief that children in difficult circumstances deserve to have fun, relax and experience some “normalcy.”