Roslyn “Roz” Rosenblatt, a Jewish educator who parlayed her innate understanding of community into a successful career as a religious school administrator, United Jewish Federation staffer and ultimately executive director of PPG Industries Foundation, died Monday, June 4 at her home in Oakland. Rosenblatt was 84.
Long before the term “social network” was a part of common parlance, Rosenblatt recognized links in what others confused as cloudy connections in a community. That ability to understand people and craft meaningful relationships across religious, ethnic and socioeconomic divides aided her in each professional endeavor, explained her son, David.
After graduating from McGill University with an undergraduate degree in education and sociology and a Master in Social Work, she began employment at Jewish Family and Children’s Service (JFCS) of Montreal. Following her marriage in July 1957 to Harvey Ben Rosenblatt, the young couple moved to Pittsburgh, where she took on work at the local JFCS.
Upon informing her employers that she had become pregnant with her first child, Rosenblatt was told that she could only return after her baby had reached the age of 2. Having an alternative understanding of work-life balance, she took a job in Jewish education. It was in that field that her brilliance began to shine, noted Rabbi Stephen Steindel.
“You couldn’t find a better face for Jewish education in America, because she both lived it and generated it from her same person,” added Steindel, the rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth Shalom.
First as a teacher, then as an assistant principal at Congregation B’nai Israel and finally as the educational director at Beth Shalom, Rosenblatt guided scores of young adults on a pathway forward fueled by Jewish thought, a knowledge of Hebrew and a love of Israel.
Charged with instilling those lessons, Rosenblatt refused to be shaken by a child’s difficulty or demeanor. Such commitment to upholding the statement of Proverbs 22:6 — that each child should be educated according to his path — earned her the respect of even the hardest students.
Said David, “I was friends with people who were troublemakers, and they said, ‘Your mom is cool. She was tough but she was fair.’”
Added Steindel, “She was a solid and dedicated Jewish educator in the best sense of the word. She wasn’t a hypocrite, she lived a Jewish life, she taught Hebrew and Judaism as values for the survival of the Jewish people.”
Yet for Rosenblatt, survival was not enough. Life needed enrichment.
So at Beth Shalom she facilitated “an ecosystem” for young adults where religious school, youth groups, summer camps and continued education at the School of Advanced Jewish Studies (SAJS) were part and parcel of a student’s rearing, said her son.
In 1983, after a decade at Beth Shalom, Rosenblatt joined the United Jewish Federation and coordinated a critical document to help chart the support of seniors.
“Full Life Catalogue,” a directory of services and resources to “help promote the full life after 60,” was a nearly 200-page manuscript that required a year of planning and research. Distributed at Full Life Festival, a three-day event held in October 1983 at Rodef Shalom Congregation, the catalog was recognized as a national model for enabling seniors to avert institutionalized care and reduce the costs of aging.
One year later, Rosenblatt joined PPG Industries Foundation. After serving as a program officer, she was named executive director and guided millions of philanthropic dollars to raise communities by empowering their inhabitants.
“That’s what nonprofit work is about, it’s about changing lives,” Rosenblatt told her daughter, Susan, in an April 2016 recording with StoryCorps.
Added the mother, “My parents taught me by example.”
Born April 1, 1934 in Montreal to Aaron and Chane Kornbluth, Polish immigrants, Rosenblatt recalled how her father had signed for nearly “1,500 people” after World War II.
“It was very hard to get into Canada and people needed to find sponsors who would vouch for the fact that they would be housed and they would get jobs and so on, and there were not social services agencies set up for that.”
So Kornbluth navigated the network of local dressmakers, secured employment for those resettled and enabled countless Jewish families to start anew.
That model of steering and serving for the betterment of others was one that Rosenblatt would adapt with each professional undertaking and apply again and again.
With a “personal style that commanded respect without having to insist upon it,” she accomplished that which she had set out to almost 60 years earlier, explained David.
As David’s parents drove to the Nevele Grand Hotel for their honeymoon “they talked about what their goals were.” She said that she wanted four children, a career and that she and my father “would raise the family substantively in the Jewish faith.”
As the story goes, she then turned to her husband and said, “I’m a lot to handle.”
Harvey, whom Roz called “the love of her life,” not only could handle it, but even encouraged it, said David.
Predeceased by her husband Harvey 23 years ago, Roslyn (Roz) Kornbluth Rosenblatt is survived by her four children: Alan Israel Rosenblatt (Lisa Freund Rosenblatt) of Chicago; Donna Beth Horowitz (Aaron) of Chicago; Susan Gail Rosenblatt (David Birenbaum) of Pittsburgh; and David Mark Rosenblatt (Shari Gersten) of New Jersey and her grandchildren: Galit and Shachar Rosenblatt; Jonathan, Elana, and Alexa Horowitz; Harrison Chase and Andrew, Steven, and Amelia Birenbaum; and Arielle and Zeke Rosenblatt. PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.