Julius Rosenwald served his country in war and peace. President Woodrow Wilson appointed him as a member of the Advisory Commission of the Council of National Defense in 1916. He was sent on many missions at home and abroad by the secretary of war.
Rosenwald was born on August 12, 1862, in Springfield, Illinois, the son of Augusta and Samuel Rosenwald. Born in a house across the street from where Abraham Lincoln had lived, Rosenwald was greatly influenced by Lincoln.
In 1879, Rosenwald went to New York to start his business career with Hammerslough Brothers. In 1885, he left the firm to go to Chicago, where he became the president of Rosenwald and Weil. He later became involved with Sears, Roebuck and Company, serving as president from 1910 to 1925 and then as chairman until his death in 1932.
Rosenwald married Augusta Nusbaum Of Chicago, and they had five children. His wife died in 1929, and a year later he married Adelaide Goodkin. Rosenwald was a philanthropist and humanitarian. A religious man, he attended services regularly at the Chicago Sinai Congregation, where he was also an officer. He was very active in Jewish charities and activities, and was one of the pioneers who organized the Federation of Jewish Charities in Chicago in 1923. He was also very active as a member of the American Jewish Committee, and helped to develop a good financial base for the Hebrew Union College of Cincinnati and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York City.
Rosenwald equated Judaism with service to humanity and he believed that Jews were a people, not a nation. Although he wasn't a Zionist, he gave generously to the Jews in Palestine and to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Rosenwald didn't confine his philanthropy to Jews. He helped feed the hungry children in Germany after World War 1. He helped establish colleges in Syria and Constantinople. He contributed almost $4 million to help build black YMCA-YWCA buildings throughout the country. He believed, like Booker T. Washington, that the salvation of the black people lay in education, and he contributed heavily to that cause. Rosenwald established the Julius Rosenwald Fund in 1917 to help serve humanity. By 1919, the fund had grown to $30 million.
In Chicago, Rosenwald was active in doing away with the "red light district." He was also involved with the Chicago Planning Commission and served as president of the Federation of Jewish Charities. He built the Museum of Science and Industry and gave it to the city.
Julius Rosenwald will be remembered as a philanthropist who served his country in war and peace.
This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism included in Jewish Heroes and Heroines of America, © 1996, written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.
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Last updated 18 October 2006