Crossing the Divide
Since its inception in 1986, the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation has dedicated more than $40 million in grants to improve the social fabric of life.
The Foundation seeks innovative solutions to intractable and persistent problems and strives to cultivate emerging talents and promising models. Founders Bernard and Audre Rapoport are actively involved in the Foundation's operations, which have touched many lives in the area of education, arts and culture, health and human service, and civic participation.
It is Said that Adversity is the Best Teacher.
If that is the case, the parents of Bernard Rapoport received a fine education. As the son of Jewish Russian immigrants, Bernard came to know the lessons of strife. His father, David, got caught up in the Russian revolution of 1905 and was exiled to Siberia for distributing propaganda against the czar. He was ultimately condemned to death but escaped in 1910 by walking 600 miles to Belgium.
It was only through the help of common people that he lived, and through relatives that he came to the United States and landed in San Antonio. In those early years in the States, he joined the Socialist Party, a movement that suggests common ownership and democratic control by all. He would soon meet Reva Feldman, the daughter of Hasidic Jews, who would later expose Bernard to the Jewish faith.
Poor and struggling, they began their life together. The elder Rapoport peddled blankets from a pushcart in San Antonio. The family was evicted, and continued to face financial difficulties through the Depression. Yet, throughout his youth, Bernard felt they had much to be grateful for, including books and music.
Another challenge that would leave a lasting mark upon the young Rapoport was an accident that took place when he was 13. As he rushed home from Yom Kippur services, he was hit by a car. The accident forced him to be bedridden for a year and a half and left him with a permanent limp. As a diversion, he read many books while he recuperated, perhaps one of the reasons he is such a proponent of reading programs to this day.
As if poverty and disability were not enough, Bernard would come to learn first-hand about social injustice. Growing up in an era of anti-Semitic and anti-black bigotry provided its own lessons in overcoming prejudice. He learned what it was like to be a second-class citizen, and learned tolerance from his father, who often rode with blacks at the back of the bus in support.
These formative years shaped and formed what would later become the under girding of the Rapoport Foundation: a pursuit of social justice and equality, a desire to help the disadvantaged and underserved, a love of reading and music, and a will to provide children with an education and its resulting potential.
But the Foundation would come later. First, it took decades of hard work and tireless dedication to workers who he helped by selling insurance to them and their families. With a modest investment in 1951, Bernard would grow the American Income Life Insurance Company to a company worth more than $560 million. This rags-to-riches story earned him the 1999 Horatio Alger Award of Distinguished Americans, an honor given to those individuals who become successful despite adversity and who encourage young people to pursue their dreams with determination and perseverance.
Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was marrying Audre Newman - his beloved wife of 66 years. They are inseparable, and her wisdom and wit brings joy and warmth to everyone they encounter.
From business and political leaders, celebrities, and grassroots workers, Audre moves among them with grace and ease. While not one to relish the limelight, Audre has done much to promote organizations she believes in. She has been especially ardent about groups that care for poor, abused or struggling women and children and finds time to visit shelters and agencies when she is in town.
With an unbridled affection for their family, including two granddaughters, the Rapoports continue to share what they have with others. It is their hope that more people will know the joy that comes from giving. After all, they will tell you, it's tradition!