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 and targeted activist youth an array of cultural workshops along with recreational and social activities. The programming facilitates the formation of bonds between Gathering participants and creates a space to share and connect with others in similar circumstances.
The most recent Gathering, held in August 2014, brought together forty-two participants including four peer leaders (all former RFC beneficiaries) from across the country. Participants included twelve families composed of 22 children and 16 parents from 12 states.
Workshops included art, cooking, creative movement, drama, drumming & dance, a parenting discussion, scavenger hunt, sports/adventure games, and writing. Parents also participated in a “Tell Your Story” session, which gave them an opportunity to talk about their families’ experiences and how they impacted their and their children’s lives.
The RFC has produced eight Gatherings; four of these community-building events were for RFC beneficiaries aged 18-24, and four have been 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.”
In addition to a generous leadership grant from the Fineshriber Family Foundation, a special RFC grant helped support the costs of the 2014 Family Gathering.