The Rosenberg Fund for Children (www.rfc.org), a public foundation that helps both children in the U.S. whose parents are targeted, progressive activists, as well youth who are targeted because of their own activism, has signed on to help sponsor the 2013 SDS National Convention.
The RFC was founded in 1990 by Robert Meeropol, the son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. In 1950 at the height of the McCarthy-era Red Scare, the Rosenbergs were arrested and charged with giving the secret of the Atomic Bomb to the Soviet Union. The young couple, left-wing activists who had grown up in poverty on New York City’s Lower East Side, were the parents of two small boys: three-year-old Robert and seven-year-old Michael. On June 19, 1953 - after being convicted in a trial that was later revealed to be rife with prosecutorial misconduct at the highest levels including the U.S. Supreme Court - the Rosenbergs were executed amidst worldwide protest.
Their fate was intended by the authorities to send a chilling message to progressives that dissent equals treason and resistance can have dire consequences. Sixty years later, those who are rallying against the U.S. government’s war-making abroad and repression at home, are facing a similar climate. From young activists facing grand jury witch hunts, to prisoners hunger striking to protest the torture of solitary confinement, to workers organizing against WalMart’s labor practices, many who are fighting for social and economic justice are facing harsh consequences meant to silence their voices and discourage others. Those who speak out are condemned as “traitors” and treated as enemies of the state.
After realizing that new generations of activists were facing the same sort of repression that his parents endured, Robert Meeropol formed the RFC in 1990. Since then the Fund has awarded almost $5 million in grants to help targeted activist youth and children of targeted activists across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. These monetary grants help RFC beneficiaries with their educational and emotional needs. While the majority of grants are to aid children whose parents are activists who have faced repression, the Fund has several types of support available for activists under the age of 25 who have been targeted for their own social justice work.
Most recipients of RFC grants are not widely known and their privacy is protected, although some are more high profile and choose to be public about the assistance they receive. The RFC has helped the families of Lynne Stewart, Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and many other U.S. political prisoners. The Fund has made grants to young activists working for international solidarity, to protect the environment, for immigrants’ rights, to end police brutality, and for many other reforms in their communities.
The RFC has always sought to encourage the passing on of progressive values and traditions of activism from older to newer generations. Long before founding the RFC, Robert Meeropol (who has recently retired), was a member of the original SDS when he attended the University of Michigan in the 1960’s. So it’s especially fitting that the RFC is sponsoring the SDS National Convention. “I’m proud to endorse the work being done by today’s members of Students for a Democratic Society,” notes Robert’s daughter, Jenn Meeropol (who currently directs the RFC), “and the RFC stands ready to support young activists who come under attack and fall within our granting guidelines.” (For more information about the RFC’s granting programs, visit www.rfc.org/grantingprograms.)