My name is Jennifer Ethel Meeropol; I am Robert’s older daughter and the Grantmaking Coordinator at the Rosenberg Fund for Children. I’m filling in for my dad’s blog this week and next week while he’s on an anti-death penalty trip to the Far East.
I spent most of last week in New York with my father at a series of events to celebrate the RFC’s 20th anniversary and commemorate June 19th, the 57th anniversary of my grandparents’ execution. I never knew my grandparents, but I’ve felt their impact on my life as deeply as I’ve known their absence. In the midst of my sadness and anger about what was done to my grandparents, I feel a fierce pride in who they were and what they stood for. And I’m incredibly proud of the organization my dad has created from the pain of his childhood.
Others who have grown up with political targeting in the family, including many of the RFC’s beneficiaries, probably feel a similar stew of emotions – sorrow and anger, pride and obligation. That’s why I joined the staff of the Rosenberg Fund for Children in July 2007. And it’s why I plan to become the next director of the Fund when my dad retires.
Although I am the newest RFC employee, I’m not new to this community. My sister and I both served on the Advisory Board from the start and I spent many school vacations during the early days of the RFC hand-addressing envelopes for fund raising mailings, attending house parties, and listening to my dad’s talks. I’ve attended or participated in every performance of Celebrate the Children of Resistance and all but the first Gathering.
While I believe I would have supported any organization my father started in his parents’ memory, my involvement in Celebrate performances and Gatherings has strengthened my connection and commitment to the RFC and our beneficiaries. Listening to courageous young people tell their stories; seeing our beneficiaries come together and create community, and in some cases second families, despite the different ways they experienced and responded to their parents’ targeting; and enjoying the peace and just plain fun at Gatherings held at the summer camp I attended as a child, have all been powerful examples of the “constructive revenge” my dad advocates.
I’m proud of the incredible organization my father has created from the pain he experienced as a small child. And I’m grateful to be a part of a community of people committed to supporting today’s progressive activists and their children in the same way previous generations supported my father and uncle.
The activists’ particulars might have shifted over the years: more Green Scare cases as prosecutors use the Patriot Act to treat non-violent environmental activists as “terrorists” and sentence them to lengthy prison terms; an increase in surveillance and targeting of Muslims as they replace communists as the feared “other” attacked by those in power; and a growing number of soldiers jailed for refusing to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. And our supporters have also changed as we lose the stalwarts who fought to save my grandparents and reach out to a new generation of activists who connect via Twitter, Facebook, texting and email around a mix of local and global concerns. But the RFC’s basic commitment to the children we serve has not changed: to be a reliable source of support through their youth and transition to adulthood and to ensure they will not face oppression alone.
As a former beneficiary said at the last Celebrate performance in Boston, “I hope that someday, the RFC won’t be needed…But in the meantime, the RFC community welcomes us, and helps us understand that even though our families are targeted and our situations may be difficult, we are not alone [click here to see video of her full statement].”
I’m thrilled to join “the family business,” grateful to be a part of this amazing legacy, and look forward to continuing to “pass it on” to a new generation of RFC supporters, targeted activists, and their children.
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