The term “father figure” expresses the influence and example that a pater familias has on most of us. Ayn Rand’s father was born Zelman Wolf Zakharovich Rosenbaum in Czarist Russia. He was known as Zinovy or Fronz. What facts do we know about him that might have had an impact on young Ayn Rand, who was born Alissa Rosenbaum in St. Petersburg in 1905?
1) Fronz was a self-made man who came from a poor background and supported his own college education. He also helped fund the education of most of his siblings.
2) He majored in chemistry in college because there were prohibitions and restrictive quotas on Jews entering many professions and schools. When he saw an opening for a Jew at the University of Warsaw, he jumped at it.
3) In the family, Fronz was quiet and not given to engaging in political conversations, at least until the rise of the Bolsheviks. Ayn’s mother Anna was the more assertive parent who ran the family.
4) Ayn said “His strongest issue was individualism; he was committed to reason.” Fronz was not religious but tolerated his wife Anna’s religious bent. He once told Ayn that he would have liked to have been a writer because ideas were so important.
5) Fronz opened a pharmacy in St. Petersburg and was able to generate a respectable middle class income.
6) In the wake of the 1917 Communist Revolution, Ayn watched as armed soldiers nationalized Fronz’s pharmacy. She never forgot the look on her father’s face: “I felt the way he looked. His was one of helplessness, murderous frustration and indignation—but he could do absolutely nothing.”
7) With no income, Fronz refused to seek a job with the Soviet government. “I will never work for them!” he exclaimed, “Not now and not ever. Not even if we starve.” The family had at times lacked food, so this was not merely a hypothetical possibility.
8) Fronz recognized Ayn’s intelligence and drive, and encouraged her to pursue her dreams. After she emigrated to America, he wrote her that “You must see clearly that you are not like everybody else and be proud of it. Eschew all doubts and continue firmly and with the assurance to walk toward your goal.”
Ayn arrived in America in 1925. In the 1930s she tried to help her family move there from the Soviet hell. Sadly, she did not succeed in that effort; she would later learn that her parents died during the siege of Leningrad by the Nazis during World War II. But her successes as a writer and thinker would certainly have left Fronz bursting with fatherly pride!
Eight Facts About Ayn Rand’s Mother.” May 6, 2016.
Edward Hudgins, “Fathers' Day: An Older Dad of Babies Weighs In.” June 15, 2012.
Malini Kochhar, “Family Relations and Objectivism.” June 29, 2010.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.