Presented by Joyce Bromley – Nov. 18, 2020
Today we honor the memory of Rabbi Manfred E. Swarsensky, a beloved member of our Club until his death in 1981. He was admired as a leader for inter-faith dialogue, religious tolerance, and civil rights. Before coming to Madison he had a brilliant career as a Rabbi in Berlin where he was famous for his sermons, until the Nazis burned down his synagogue and sent him to a concentration camp. Many of his family members and friends were victims of the Holocaust. He was released. At 39 years old and alone, he came to Madison and founded Temple Beth El. We, as well as the Madison community, came to admire him and respect him for his dedicated leadership to peacemaking and forgiveness, for building bridges and reconciliation. Each year we designate an award to someone who emanates the Rabbi’s ideals.
This year’s Manfred E. Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award recipient is Dr. Floyd Rose. For decades his active voice in education in the Madison Community has been his avocation—always working in partnerships to help others do better for themselves. As Dawn Crim stated, “his passion work is education and his support of the next generation.” He seeks to find solutions with the Madison Metropolitan School District and families surrounding the persistent educational achievement gap between white students and students of color.
As President of 100 Black Men of Madison, he sees that members of this organization are role models for the community. They attend schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District on the first day of class to welcome students and their parents to the school year. In preparation for school, for 26 years they have led the “Annual Back to School Celebration” campaign providing free backpacks AND school supplies for students from limited-income families. When schools transitioned to virtual education, the backpack project promptly transitioned into Project 3000, which represents the 3000 local students in families with limited incomes.
The tasks before them were immediate. Dr. Rose recognized that virtual learning at home requires more than a student and a laptop. The entire family needs to be supported in their student’s academic pursuits. Parents and caregivers require resources necessary to facilitate learning. Families need technical and guidance support Project 3000 works with families to ensure that each student has an internet installation and access—and a plan to sustain service and utilities. When appropriate, parents, caregivers, and students are provided with basic computer training. This support includes mentoring, educational coaching, and tutoring. Dr. Rose recognized that this level of attention is important to ensure that all school-age students have the necessary educational support to be successful.
This endeavor is in addition to the SOAR partnership with 100 Black Men of Madison and the United Way of Dane County that began in 2016. This comprehensive program is designed to decrease truancy rates and increase high school graduation rates. It begins with one-on-one mentoring of students in middle school and continues through high school. These projects require a substantial commitment to the benefit of others—for the next generation.
I will conclude with a quote from Bob Sorge who wrote of Dr. Rose—he is an excellent embodiment of … the social justice advocacy, personal insight, and empathy reflected by the work and life of Rabbi Swarsensky.
Our congratulations to Dr. Floyd Rose on receiving this year’s Manfred E. Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award. Along with this award, a $2,500 grant is presented by the Madison Rotary Foundation to an agency of the recipient’s choice. Dr. Rose has chosen our annual Community Grants Campaign to receive this grant.
The Manfred E. Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award was established in 1982 and identifies individuals who have, through their voluntary efforts, made a particularly outstanding contribution to the humanitarian service in the greater Madison community, in the tradition so well exemplified by the life of Rabbi Swarsensky. The award-winning documentary video, “A Portrait: Rabbi Manfred Swarsensky,” that was created and produced by Rotarian Dick Goldberg with assistance by Wisconsin Public Television, provides background on Manfred Swarsensky and can be viewed on YouTube, and the Rotary office also has a copy of the video for any member wishing to view it.