In late June, when the staff sat down to write the articles for the RFC fall newsletter,* we saw so many reasons to anticipate a brighter fall and winter and, hopefully, a continual decline in COVID transmission and an ever increasing sense that it would be safe to bring our community back together in person. Infection rates were dropping, vaccination rates were rising, and in the Western Mass community around the RFC office, there was a gradual return to something approaching a pre-COVID “normal.”
Our small staff was able to spend a few half days working together at the RFC office, and the Board and staff gathered for a backyard picnic in July. Beneficiaries cautiously attended summer camps and outdoor recreational programs and began to plan for fall programming. And we reserved a pavilion at a local park and began planning our long-delayed 30th anniversary party.
What a difference a few months makes! The continued politicization of this public health crisis led to mandates against mask mandates in many communities, widespread vaccine hesitancy fueled by a misinformation campaign against the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines, and a fourth surge of infections, hospitalizations and deaths across the country, including in our community. Reluctantly, our staff returned to working remotely and meeting on Zoom. And we began to hear from beneficiary families across the country asking if they could purchase equipment for summer activities for their children as programs were canceled or felt unsafe. A few weeks ago, we made the difficult decision to cancel our second attempt at holding a 30th anniversary in-person gathering for local supporters.
The last few months have felt like a roller coaster. We are lucky that the RFC is so well-positioned to work remotely. And I am incredibly grateful for the hard work of our small staff and Board, and for the remarkable creativity of our grantee families, who have come up with inspiring ways of using grant funds to continue to support their children’s educational and emotional growth under very challenging circumstances. But I admit to being really disappointed that it still isn’t possible to celebrate 30 years of the RFC with members of our community. And everyone at the RFC remains deeply concerned about updates from beneficiary families reporting on children or parents, or in one case an entire family, battling COVID and dealing with illness on top of targeting and financial hardship.
As we look to our fall granting cycle, I’m afraid I'm no longer confident that there’s hope on the horizon for gathering in-person again, at least in the near future. Yet in the midst of the continued uncertainty, there are some things I know for sure: we will continue to do everything we can to keep our staff, grantees, and community safe; and whether working in person or remotely, the RFC staff and Board remain committed to awarding grants this fall and in the future to meet our grantees needs and stand with them and their families.
We’re also exploring ways to convene online to continue to build community and combat the isolation far too many of us are experiencing. If you have thoughts or requests for how we might safely come together, please share them in the comments below or send them to us at email@example.com. We’d be glad to hear from you. Thank you for your continued, sustained support during this time of deep uncertainty; I am so grateful to be able to rely on our generous community.
* A little background on our newsletter production timeline may be helpful. After writing the articles, we send the content to our graphic designer and work with him to finalize the layout. Then we send it to our local union print shop, which spends a few weeks producing thousands of copies, which they deliver to our mail house in Western Mass. The mail house processes the newsletter and takes it to the post office in early September. As you can see, it is a multi-month production process to publish and deliver our newsletter from our office to your doorstep and email inbox. In times of rapidly changing conditions during the pandemic, we may need to issue an amendment to our articles from time to time. We’ll continue to share these through our blog and emails as the need arises.
I read the short stories in your recent newsletter about all the children the Rosenberg Fund is helping, children whose parents are targets of political oppression or jailed and are political prisoners. The US government and media commentators constantly clamor about political prisoners in other countries. But the stories in your newsletter suggest that not only does the US hold the most prisoners of any country in the world, it may also hold the most political prisoners. I'm wondering if there isn't someone who could write a book based on these parents' lives and incarceration as US political prisoners.
Last year the Palestinian Writers conference was supposed to be held in March in NYC. It was cancelled due to covid, but then they organized an on-line conference, which actually meant that many more people could attend from all across the world. Something for you to think about. Keep up all your good work.
I hope that Ethel is still exonerated. Is there any hope that President Biden would do so? Let me know so I can mobilize folks in Minnesota and beyond. I just finished Anne Sebba's book. The level of misogyny in her case should make every woman in America shudder.
Thank you for blessing her life with the Rosenberg Fund for Children. No child should have to suffer because their parent is caught up in protest of government.
I recently finished reading this book, and hope that it will soon be made into a motion picture for Netflix, or theaters.
I was only 7 years old when Julius and Ethel took their final walk, and in later years I read many books concerning their case.
I'm grateful fro this opportunity to comment.
If you could simply realign the pages to the Newsletter were 8 1/2 by 11, those of us who wish to archive our Newsletters could put them upright on our books shelves or even place them in 3-ring binders. At present, neither is possible. To archive requires having them in stacks which makes finding particular articles unnecessarily difficult.
Please give this consideration!
Thanks for doing this good work, despite the challenges of these (at least partially unnecessarily) difficult times.
We enjoy reading your newsletter and this blog.
All best wishes,
Ken and Geraldine