By Skip Sheffield
Never heard of Julius Rosenwald? Me neither. This is not surprising, because he died in 1932, long before I was born. Thanks to writer director Aviva Kempner (“Yoo-Hoo Mrs. Goldberg,” “Life and Times of Hank Greenberg”), Julius Rosenwald is getting his just due as one of America’s greatest philanthropists.
Unlike say Andrew Carnegie, Julius Rosenberg did not put his name on institutions he made possible. A prime example is Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry, which was called the Rosenwald Museum by those in the know.
Rosenwald’s greatest achievement was in the field of education. He took a special interest in underprivileged minorities, particularly in the rural South. In the course of his lifetime (1862-1932) Rosenwald’s Foundation funded more than 5,000 schools throughout the USA. One of them was right here in Boca Raton. Rosenwald’s challenge grant made possible what became Roadman School in the era of segregation, which did not end until the mid-1960s.
Rosenwald made a fortune as CEO of Sears, Roebuck & Co. His father had been an itinerant peddler, and Julius never forgot his humble roots. Rosenwald likened the poor black families of the South to the Russian Jews who were forever being victimized by pogroms carried out by the ruling Czarists. In the American South it was the fiercely racist Ku Klux Klan, who burned and bombed homes and schools and lynched black people for public display.
Julius Rosenwald idolized Abraham Lincoln, who free the slaves and died for his beliefs. If you need a dose of inspiration, see “Rosenwald” and discover what it means to give to the poor in the biblical sense of the left hand not knowing what the right is giving.