A good way for the schools to teach citizenship would be to
tell the story of Dorothy Roth of Allentown,
who died Tuesday at age 83. Mrs. Roth came here from South
Africa in 1947 and in the 59 years since,
has done all the things that this country asks of its citizens, and more. And,
Mrs. Roth did none of it by rote. She was passionate about the good of the
nation and fearless in her defense of its have-nots. Furthermore, she loved Allentown
and engaged herself joyfully in many facets of life here.
It all sprang from the contrasts she saw between growing up in apartheid South
Africa and coming here to marry and raise a
family with her late husband, Saul. She had met him when his U.S.
troopship docked in Capetown in 1942. Back home, her
parents were activists for social good, donating money, for instance, for black
students to go to medical school. However, public advocacy for unpopular causes,
even by the well-to-do, was not permitted.
Once she received U.S.
citizenship, Mrs. Roth became zealous about voting and supporting candidates in
whom she believed. In 2003, she found herself in SacredHeartHospital
on election day and she insisted on being wheeled from
her bed to her precinct so she could vote. As for personal involvement, she
served on the board of Confront, the Allentown
drug-rehab agency, since 1969, and until the onset of her final illness,
continued to advocate for better services for people with addictions, pressing
local officials, state legislators and hospital presidents to do a better job
on their behalf.
She was involved in the Jewish community, including the Institute for
Jewish-Christian Understanding. She was interested in the arts, and was an
accomplished painter. In the 1980s, she objected publicly to some of the modern
art being placed in Allentown's
parks. She once told a reporter the story of how her husband, fearing that her
outspokenness would cost the family restaurant supply business a contract,
asked her to ''tone it down.'' She refused, reminding him that he risked his
life in World War II to defend Americans' freedom.
In fact, most people who were familiar with Mrs. Roth's name knew it as a
signature on letters to the editor printed in The Morning Call. Scores of them
have been printed since the early 1950s, and they all had this in common: Not
once did she ask for something for herself, for something self-serving.
Our towns and our nation would be better off if such generosity of spirit came
as easily to the rest of us as it did to Dorothy Roth.
Comment Posted Regarding Article:
Dorothy was an amazing person
with the courage of her convictions and a sense of public duty that was rare in
today's society. Those of us who knew her were enriched by the experience.