Rosenwald YMCA in Brooklyn is remembered by Brownstoner blog

Montrose Morris over at, a website about residential property in Brooklyn, has written a great blog about the historic African American YMCA on Carlton Avenue and Julius Rosenwald’s role in its construction. The story of the the Rosenwald-funded YMCAs is an inspiring one, and the Carlton Ave branch is one of two funded by Rosenwald challenge grants (the other is found on 125th Street in Harlem). A historical photo of some patrons of this branch can be seen here, at the NYC YMCA’s website, and the photo below is a gallery of other Rosenwald YMCAs.

Gallery of photos of nine Rosenwald Y.M.C.A. Buildings
Image from The Crisis, September 1922, courtesy of the Modernist Journals Project

By Michael Rose

Jewish Federation to bestow annual Rosenwald Award

The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago reports that its annual Julius Rosenwald Memorial Award will go to its Board Chairman, David A. Sherman, in recognition of his outstanding service in stewarding the organization through the recent economic downturn. Rosenwald was a founding member of the Associated Jewish Charities of Chicago, a forerunner to the Federation, and served as its first president. Sherman will receive the award on Monday, September 24th, 2012 at the Hilton Chicago.

For more info, visit

By Michael Rose

D.C. YMCA to inaugurate new building for U Street area branch

The Anthony Bowen YMCA recently distributed flyers to Northwest Washington D.C. residents informing them about the upcoming October 2012 opening of a new building for the YMCA. In the flyer, Angie Reese-Hawkins, President & CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington recounts a little of the history of the YMCA and then writes eloquently on the YMCA’s mission:

“The new Y unites the right minds and resources to serve this diverse community, honoring Anthony Bowen’s passion to create a place where all can grow. Each time this Y has been resurrected, it has met the personal and social needs of the community, region and nation. Join us as we write history again, by being part of a legacy that will positively impact your life and the lives of generations to come.”

The D.C. YMCA on 12th Street NW, shortly after it opened
Image from The Crisis, November 1914, courtesy of the Modernist Journals Project

Anthony Bowen, who was born into slavery in Prince George’s County but purchased his freedom, organized the original African American YMCA in D.C. before the Civil War. After a series of temporary locations, the YMCA moved in 1912 into a new building on 12th Street NW funded in part by a Julius Rosenwald challenge grant. The D.C. YMCA was the pilot project of this program and the first of many YMCAs to be funded by Rosenwald. Its generous, modern spaces influenced the design of the buildings that followed it. In the 1980s, the YMCA moved into a new building on W Street NW, which is next door to the new YMCA that will open later this year at 14th and W Streets NW.

The Anthony Bowen YMCA basketball team
Image from The Crisis, July 1911, courtesy of the Modernist Journals Project

You can read more about the Anthony Bowen YMCA on their website. There are also a couple of interesting videos on their Vimeo channel, one featuring Thomas B. Hargrave Jr. discussing the origins of the D.C. YMCA all the way back in 1853 and another with Janice Williams of the YMCA talking about the more recent history of the organization. It’s great to see this YMCA getting renewed and revitalized again. As Angie Reese-Hawkins and other people who are passionate about the YMCA will tell you, it’s been a positive force in the community for over 150 years.

By Michael Rose

Washington D.C. JCC theatrical productions have Rosenwald Fund connection

Theater J in Washington D.C. has released its schedule for the 2012-2013 season and several of the productions sound very intriguing. One is The Hampton Years, by Jacqueline E. Lawton, which will have its world premiere on May 29th at Theater J and run until June 30th. Lawton’s play, based on a true story, is set between 1939 and 1946 at Hampton University and deals with two young artists named John Biggers and Samella Lewis who are taught by an Austrian Jewish immigrant named Viktor Lowenfeld. The small cast includes two more artists, Rosenwald Fund grantees Elizabeth Catlett and Charles White, who, according to an interview with Lawton, play the part of “mentors and instigators” to the young artists. It’s a fascinating story and it resonates with the Rosenwald Fund in two ways. It’s another example of a remarkable pre-Civil Rights partnership between Jews and African Americans, but it also shows how Rosenwald fellows often went on to mentor other artists.

Coming this November to Theater J is a play about another Rosenwald fellow, Woody Guthrie. Woody Sez: The Life & Music of Woody Guthrie tells the story of Guthrie’s life through music. The cast consists of four “actor/musicians” who will play a variety of parts and instruments. This production is one of many tributes taking place this year, marking what would have been the late Guthrie’s 100th birthday. Woody Sez plays from November 8th to December 2nd at Theater J.

By Michael Rose

John Mace Grunsfeld, astronaut and Rosenwald descendant, appears on “The Colbert Report”

Astronaut John Mace Grunsfeld was recently on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” to talk about NASA’s new Mars rover, Curiosity. Curiosity landed on Mars early Monday (August 6th) morning and has already sent back many black and white images. Grunsfeld explained how this rover differs from earlier ones–its chemistry laboratory is much more sophisticated–and talked about its primary mission: finding evidence of historical life on Mars by studying and doing tests on the dirt it recovers.

Grunsfeld’s background is linked to Julius Rosenwald in a couple of ways. His grandfather, Ernest Grunsfeld Jr., was Rosenwald’s nephew and designed the Adler Planetarium and the Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments, an innovative apartment complex that housed many famous Chicagoans, including Quincy Jones and Joe Louis.

Also, growing up in Hyde Park, Chicago, Grunsfeld has said he became interested in science early in life through visits to the nearby Museum of Science and Industry, another Rosenwald-funded project that was initially known as the Rosenwald Industrial Museum. Rosenwald was inspired to create the Museum of Science and Industry after seeing similar museums in Vienna and Munich, and his hope was that the exhibits detailing industrial technology would motivate new scientific innovation by museum goers.

You can watch the segment from “The Colbert Report” on Hulu.

By Michael Rose