Julia Rosenwald, Educator of Disadvantaged Youth, Dies at 101

Julia Rosenwald

At 101, Julia Rosenwald wasn’t well-versed in computers, but she definitely knew how to talk on the phone.

Her daughter Linda Levy remembered her mother’s frequent calls to friends across the world.

“She was a very connected person. Well into her adult years, she maintained a lot of friendships,” Levy said.

The magnet for people died June 1 at her longtime home in Elkins Park. Better known as Judy, she dedicated her life to those left behind by the education system.

Born in Philadelphia in 1916, Rosenwald graduated from Cheltenham High School before attending Sarah Lawrence College. Her early schooling experiences impacted her and, as an adult, she strived to share the benefits of education with others.

“She had a lifelong interest [in making sure] people could read well and were well educated,” Levy explained, noting her mother was especially eager to helping those with life challenges or disadvantages.

Rosenwald volunteered at what is now Conwell Middle Magnet School in Kensington, teaching those with reading difficulties. She also instructed English as a second language classes at the Nationalities Service Center in Center City

Many of her students remained in touch well into their adult lives, Levy said.

“There’s no question she loved those friendships. We heard those names spoken many times.”

Some former students would visit Rosenwald to express their gratitude and meet the extended Rosenwald family in the process.

“People loved her,” Levy said. “They would tell us, even when she was still alive, about the impact she had on them.”

For Rosenwald, such occasions verified her dedication to educating the disadvantaged.

“It was her passion to help people succeed,” Levy said. “She thought this was the path,” meaning she saw the Jewish principle of tzdakeh (charity) as paramount. Judaism held significant value to Rosenwald, and she was a member of Congregation Rodeph Sholom.

In line with her devotion to helping others, Rosenwald served on local civic boards and joined many charitable organizations. She was particularly proud of her work with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Child Study Center of Philadelphia and the Child Welfare League of America.

Her daughter added that Rosenwald’s passion for children translated into unwavering support of her own. The matriarch was married to Julius Rosenwald II for 65 years, until his death in 2003. The couple had three children: Karen Gundersheimer, Levy and Julius Rosenwald III.

Rosenwald is survived by her children, five grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Also surviving her is half-brother Bart Cahan and many nieces and nephews.


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