The death of Henry Rosovsky, a refugee from the Nazis and a supporter of Harvard University

BOSTON ( JTA ) — When the rabbi of Harvard University decided to relocate the Hillel organization, then located near campus, as its center, Henry Rosovsky was skeptical at first.

“He was absolutely right and I was wrong,” Rosowski said JTA On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Hillel building named after him in 2017: Rosovsky Hall.

The event was also a chance to celebrate the 90th birthday of Rosovsky, an economist who spent most of his career at Harvard — decades where he influenced the school’s curriculum, where he led a commission to improve the status of African-American students. prestigious university and strengthened Jewish life on campus.

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Rosovsky died on November 11 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he lived and worked after joining the Harvard faculty in 1965. He was 95 years old.

“What he left behind continues to affect the lives of everyone on campus today,” said Harvard President Lawrence Bekov, who is Jewish. JTA. “In his death, Harvard has lost one of its greatest advocates and one of its greatest citizens.”

At his funeral at Temple Israel in Boston, Rosovsky was eulogized by family, colleagues and friends for his brilliant mind, humor and love of tennis and jazz. leadership.

His daughter, Leah Rosowski, said her father took great pleasure in building and hiring presidents of what became Harvard’s African and African-American Studies program, along with others. .

Born in a Jewish family in Gdansk, Poland, on September 1, 1927, Rosowski fled the Nazis through France, Spain, and Belgium and immigrated to the United States with his parents and brother in 1940. He volunteered for the U.S. Army during World War II and served in the Korean War, according to Harvard’s obituary. After graduating from the College of William and Mary, he first came to Harvard in 1949 to pursue a doctorate in economics.

He returned to Harvard in 1965, specializing in the economic development of Japan and Asia. He was to remain at the college for the rest of his career, shaping not only the Ivy League College but also Boston’s Jewish community.

Rosowski, dean of Harvard’s College of Arts and Sciences from 1973 to 1991, helped implement the school’s innovative curriculum. He was president of Harvard for two terms; he was elected a fellow of the Harvard Corporation—he was the first Jew in the body—and oversaw the creation of the Harvard Center for Jewish Studies.

In 1969, Rosowski was leading a commission to study the lives of African Americans at Harvard, when a student protest movement led to changes at many universities. The subsequent “Rosovsky Report” strongly recommended the creation of an independent department of African and African-American studies, as well as other initiatives to better integrate African-American students. Rosovsky resigned from the commission when the students were given the right to speak on an equal footing with its members — a decision he said should have been carefully considered. He returned to the body shortly before retiring in the 1990s—hiring senior experts, including Gates, who was tasked with turning the department into an academic fortress.

Rosovsky’s 1990 book. University: An Entrepreneur’s Guide introduced those unfamiliar with the complex operations of a research university. But the former dean also helped Harvard insiders by advising various Harvard presidents. Among the latter were Drew Gilpin Faust, Lawrence H. Summers and Neil Rudenstine who came to pay their respects and thank them for their sage advice on the occasion of his 90th birthday.

But it didn’t stop at Harvard. Rosowski, chairman of the Boston Jewish Federation’s Strategic Planning Commission in the 1990s, shared his analytical expertise and ability to bring people together to set a course for Boston’s Jewish community, according to Barry Schrage, who for decades led the United Jewish Charities of Greater Boston.

“It was a turning point in terms of learning, teaching for adults; it’s about building a community based on it by involving synagogues,” Schrage said JTA in a conversation organized at a funeral. “Everything came out in a strategic plan.”

“He was a secular Jew, but his Jewish identity deeply influenced his worldview,” he said.

Rosowski leaves behind his wife, Nice – he was married for 66 years to this former curator of the Semitic Museum at Harvard – children, Leah, Judy and Michael and their spouses; has four grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

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