This is my last report as Executive Director of the Rosenberg Fund for Children. When our next newsletter is published in September, Jenn Meeropol, my daughter, will be filling this position.
Turning over the helm of the organization that I founded, that fulfilled a life-long quest, leaves me with a complex flood of feelings. I am extremely lucky that Jenn wishes to follow in my footsteps, and that I have such a competent, committed and appropriate successor. I know also that the RFC requires fresher leadership if it is to reach out to younger people and fulfill its mission of helping a new generation of children of targeted activists and targeted activist youth. My strongest emotion is to be grateful to all whose love, work and support for over 60 years have made this possible.
I survived my childhood nightmare with the devotion and guidance of Anne and Abel Meeropol, the comforting presence of my older brother, and the aid, at critical moments, of a courageous and supportive community. This support left me with a positive attitude towards people that enabled me to become a happy husband and father. But it also left me with a desire to make something positive come out of the horrible events of my early years. The standard adult professions I tried, college teacher and then lawyer, could not fulfill this need.
I was 42 years old, adrift and unhappy in my work life, when I awoke in the middle of the night with the idea to build a foundation in my parents’ name that would help children experiencing what I lived through. It would transform the destruction that was visited upon my family into a positive force that would benefit a new generation of families the way the community of support rallied to aid my brother and me after our parents were killed. I still think of the RFC as my constructive revenge.
Suddenly my vague sense that I wanted to do something different had found its focus. But that did not guarantee that it would become a reality. First my wife, Elli, had to convince me that I could do this, and then my friend Dan Scharlin had to suggest the outline of a business plan, and finally dozens of financial backers had to take a leap of faith and pledge substantial multi-year support. In the fall of 1990, with the help of the RFC’s fledgling Board of Directors and performers Pete Seeger, Richie Havens, Country Joe MacDonald and Jane Sapp we gathered almost 2,000 local supporters. The following year we launched a national initiative that reached thousands more.
So many people have helped along the way—I can’t begin to give the credit you all deserve. And, although I will not be leading the RFC after September 1st, I will remain on the Board of Directors and continue to be involved. But instead of being in the office, I will spend more time visiting my grandchildren, and will concentrate on a new writing project about climate change and politics that I have already begun.
My parents wrote in their last letter to my brother and me that they died secure in knowledge that others would carry on after them. I’m confident that Jenn, the RFC Board and staff, and all of you will continue to carry this project forward to support activists and their children.
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