19 Years!

Monday, September 4th, 1990 was the first day I spent as the Executive Director of the Rosenberg Fund for Children. As September 4th approaches each year, I find myself reflecting on one of the biggest turning points of my life.

At the time it seemed like a leap into the unknown. And it also felt like a terrifying responsibility. A small group of financial backers, a portion of whom were also friends had placed their faith in my ability to build a progressive public foundation that would provide for the educational and emotional needs of the children of targeted activists.

I don’t recall, however, being daunted by the task. In fact, I remember being almost giddy with glee that I’d be able to devote 40, 50 even 60 hours per week to the mission I wanted to do more than anything else in the world. Although I must admit there were times when I wasn’t sure it would work.

Many people have praised me for making such a positive and altruistic choice to transform the destruction that was visited upon my family into something positive for the benefit of other families. Yet I didn’t feel I had a choice. When I looked back over my work life in 1990, at the age of 43, I found it consisted of a series of near-misses. I more or less liked teaching Anthropology at the college level, political organizing to reopen the Rosenberg Case, working as the Managing Editor of Socialist Review, being a law clerk for a judge or even legal practice (although the last was my least favorite), but I wasn’t satisfied doing any of them. In 1990, I knew that I just had to take a chance on building the RFC.

This choice has led me to wonder if, in this way, I’m not unlike the parents of the children who qualify for our support. People often question why parents would attempt to change the world and put themselves at risk when it could jeopardize their children’s security. The obvious answer is that parents work for a better world for their children. It strikes me, however, that just as I felt I had to engage the world in my unique way to live a full life, the parents we support take part in their activism because they feel compelled to do the same.

For almost 20 years I’ve identified more with the children we support than with their parents, but now I think that perhaps I should identify with both.

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