Holocaust survivor, World War II veteran and Adelphi student opens up about his life and love of learning.
By Avital Louria-Hahn
When 95-year-old Edmund “Eddie” Rosenblum, a Holocaust survivor and U.S. Army veteran, retired at age 70, he immediately tended to an important part of his life that had been interrupted by World War II: his education.
As soon as he heard about Adelphi’s Guest Scholar Program “I went straight down to find out about the program,” Rosenblum said. He signed up for a psychology course and has not stopped studying since, attending classes through Adelphi’s University College every fall and spring for nearly 25 years except “one or two semesters at most when my wife was sick.”
“I took courses from anthropology to zoology,” he said. “I get great satisfaction from learning.” But it’s history and politics that interest him most. “To me, history is very important,” he said, adding that learning the context of world events helps one understand nations and people and be open-minded to other groups and nationalities. In the spring of 2016 he plans to take Politics of the Middle East. “That sounds like an interesting one,” he said.
Rosenblum has bright blue eyes, stands straight and looks much younger than his age. He is the quintessential optimist. “I never met a human being I didn’t like,” he said. Adelphi students and faculty know him well. In 2006, he marched with the graduating class and was honored with a lifelong learner certificate, was invited to a cocktail reception with Adelphi’s president (now president emeritus) Robert A. Scott, Ph.D., and the board of trustees, and received special mention from the keynote speaker, Hillary Rodham Clinton. “I felt like I was ten feet tall,” he said.
Born in Vienna, Rosenblum had to stop his schooling at age 14 when Hitler banned Jews from higher education. Instead, his father, a tailor, taught him his profession.
The trade served Rosenblum well, not only when he arrived in the United States penniless at age 19, but also later when he served in the U.S. Army during World War II and sewed a Filipino-American flag for the island’s provisional government after liberation from Japan. The deed earned him the Army Commendation Ribbon. “I was the Betsy Ross of the Philippines,” he said with a laugh and a twinkle in his eye.
After his discharge in 1949 Rosenblum continued to sew, supporting his wife, Shirley, who has since passed away, and their four children. His Garden City shop made custom suits for the rich and famous, including the New York Jets.
Then, in 1990, when Rosenblum sold his tailor shop and retired, “The second half of my life opened up,” he said.
Every Tuesday Rosenblum drives his Cadillac to Adelphi’s Garden City campus and sits in class with mostly 20- and 30-year-olds and a smattering of fellow senior citizens as he listens to a professor who may well be the age of one of his 12 grandchildren. (He also has 18 great-grandchildren.) In some courses Rosenblum knows so much he keeps quiet, speaking only when the professor says, “’Rosenblum, is there anything you want to add?’” he said.
Sometimes he is asked to speak about his WWII experiences—he saw Hitler in a motorcade, hid with his family until they could leave for the United States and was part of the Omaha Beach invasion at D-Day. Rosenblum said the students listen carefully, which is key to understanding and getting along with people. “They are polite, they are interested, and they ask questions,” he said. “The faculty, too, and everyone at Adelphi, have been a mere pleasure.”
“When I finish my speech, I tell the students, ‘One day you are going to lead this country. The only way to eradicate hatred and ignorance is by education,’” he added. “This is the thought I leave them with.”
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