Rozanski earns his stars and stripes

Rider University President Mordechai Rozanski (right) stands with his grandson Lucas after receiving his American citizenship. He was sworn in on Jan. 19 and now holds dual citizenship, both in the United States and Canada.By Jess Decina

July 4, 2008, is going to be a significant holiday for Dr. Mordechai Rozanski.

The University’s president will be celebrating two milestones. First of all, July 4 marks his 62nd birthday. But perhaps more importantly, Rozanski can celebrate Independence Day as a United States citizen for the first time ever.

“Mine has been a journey with a global perspective connecting countries and institutions, a bridge between the old and new, between despair and joy, and most importantly, between knowledge and opportunity,” he said.

Rozanski was sworn in just before spring semester began on Jan. 19. Yet, he has been crossing the globe since childhood. At the age of six, Rozanski, the son of Holocaust survivors, and his family left their native country of Poland and traveled “from Eastern Europe to Israel for two years, and France for one.” They finally settled in Montreal, Canada, in 1953. For Rozanski, his new home meant freedom and opportunity.

“And the highest expression of that opportunity was an education for me, a privilege denied [to] my parents,” he said. “Education was part of belonging somewhere, of shaping a future.”

Rozanski graduated from McGill University, earned his master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania, and eventually returned to Canada to serve as president of the University of Guelph. After two terms as president, Rozanski, his wife and their children decided to move back to the United States. Their move coincided with Rozanski’s appointment as president of Rider. Still, something was missing.

“All the while, I remained a Canadian citizen,” he said. “But I decided that it was time to lay down my roots here and that meant becoming a dual citizen.”

Applying for citizenship seemed like a logical step for Rozanski: His wife and children were all dual citizens. But citizenship was also a matter of pride.

“I will be able to join others in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, sing the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ at Rider basketball games and vote in elections,” he said.

Earning those American merits was not easy. Rozanski can probably sympathize with the stress of final exams that’s about to descend on students; the intense process of becoming a citizen meant a slew of “questionnaires, documentation, security checks and a rigorous, in-person interview.” The final test was more than 90 questions long, but Rozanski referred to it as “challenging and fun.”

“I think it gave me a background that many native-born U.S. citizens might not have,” he said. “‘Do you know how many amendments there are to the U.S. Constitution?’ ‘Can you name the first 13 states?’”

It’s appropriate for Rozanski to have earned this honor while at Rider; after all, under his administration, the University has begun to pursue relationships across the globe.

“I hope [my citizenship] symbolizes Rider’s diversity, multi-national character and dedication to a global perspective,” he said.

From a life of little opportunity to one of tremendous impact, from Europe to North America, Rozanski has certainly traveled a long way.

“I consider myself extraordinarily privileged to have become a U.S. citizen because it crowns a long and somewhat tortuous path of my personal journey,” he said.

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