Giving Compass’ Take:
• My Jewish Learning profiles businessman and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, who devoted his life to various causes, with a focus on education, alleviating poverty and addressing inequities.
• What lessons can philanthropists today take from Rosenwald’s story? One is the emphasis on “giving while living,” making sure that not a moment or dollar is wasted in the pursuit of one’s vision.
Wealth, Julius Rosenwald contended, is a blessing and a charge: “I can testify that it is nearly always easier to make $1,000,000 honestly than to dispose of it wisely.”
Born in Springfield, Illinois to German Jewish immigrants in 1862, Rosenwald got his start in the wholesale clothing trade. In 1895 this middling garment salesmen left the family profession to invest in a newfangled mail-order company – Sears, Roebuck …
In the spring of 1910, Rosenwald’s philanthropic approach appeared fully formed; he had started to build a legacy funding healthcare, progressive education, and Jewish survival initiatives. Yet that very summer, Rosenwald’s philosophy of giving changed. Upon reading Up From Slavery, Booker T. Washington‘s harrowing autobiography, Rosenwald awoke both to the tragedy of racism and to Washington’s ameliorative efforts at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute.
In October of 1911, Julius, his wife Gussie, and Rabbi Hirsch boarded a private Pullman train headed to sultry Alabama to visit Tuskegee. He was astonished at what he encountered: “I don’t believe there is a white industrial school in America or anywhere that compares to Mr. Washington’s at Tuskegee.” Efficiency, need, and results guided Washington and the industrial departments at Tuskegee.
Rosenwald hankered to get involved and, as usual, started with a small donation of needed items (in this case shoes for the students), before moving on to larger monetary gifts. Eventually, he joined the board, and in 1912, on his 50th birthday, Rosenwald bestowed a grant that would forever secure his philanthropic legacy — a gift to build rural schoolhouses in the South.
Read the full article about the philanthropic legacy of Julius Rosenwald by Tamara Mann at My Jewish Learning.
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