The Museum of



The Screening Room
a film by Aviva Kempner


The Ciesla Foundation


a film by Aviva Kempner



From the award winning director of

The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg and

Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg



Aviva Kempner’s Rosenwald  is the incredible story of Julius Rosenwald, the son of an immigrant peddler who never finished high school, but rose to become the President of Sears. Influenced by the writings of the educator Booker T. Washington, this Jewish philanthropist joined forces with African American communities during the Jim Crow South to build over 5,300 schools during the early part of the 20th century.

Rosenwald sheds light on this silent partner of the Pre-Civil Rights Movement. Rosenwald awarded fellowship grants to a who's who of African American intellectuals and artists of his day so that they could pursue their scholarship and art. They included: Marian Anderson, James Baldwin, the father and uncle of civil rights leader Julian Bond, Ralph Bunche, W. E. B. DuBois, Katherine Dunham, Ralph Ellison, John Hope Franklin, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Gordon Parks, Jacob Lawrence and Augusta Savage along with Woody Guthrie.

Inspired by the Jewish ideals of tzedakah (charity) and tikkun olam (repairing the world) and a deep concern over racial inequality in America, Julius Rosenwald used his wealth to become one of America’s most effective philanthropists. Rosenwald also built YMCAs and housing for African Americans to address the pressing needs of the Great Migration. Because of his modesty, Rosenwald’s philanthropy and social activism are not well known today. He gave away $62 million in his lifetime.

The list of prominent alumni and educators who attended the Rosenwald Schools include Tony Award winning playwright George Wolfe, poet Maya Angelou, U.S. Representative John Lewis, Pulitzer Prize winner Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post and the ancestors of Loretta Lynch (US Attorney General) and law professor Anita Hill.  Skip Gates writes in Finding Oprah's Roots: Finding Your Own that Oprah’s ancestor Amanda Bullocks became a trustee of the Buffalo Rosenwald School in Attala County, Mississippi.


About the film's director, Aviva Kempner:

Aviva Kempner has a mission in life: Her films investigate non-stereotypical images of Jews in history and celebrate the untold stories of Jewish heroes.  She conceived of and produced Partisans of Vilna, a documentary on Jewish resistance against the Nazis, produced and directed Peabody-winning and Emmy nominated The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, about the Jewish slugger who fought anti-Semitism in the 1930’s and 40’s, and produced and directed Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg, a humorous and eye-opening story of television pioneer Gertrude Berg.

Two of her previous films have grossed over a million dollars at the box office. The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg grossed over $1.7 million while Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg grossed over $1.2 million.

Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg won a CINE Golden Eagle and festival audience awards and Women's Film Critics Circle posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award winner for Gertrude Berg. The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg was awarded Audience Awards at the Hamptons International Film Festival and Washington Jewish Film Festival; Spirit Award for Best Sports Documentary, International Sports Video and Film Awards; top honors from the National Society of Film Critics, the National Board of Review, the New York Film Critics Circle and Broadcast Film Critics Association. It also won a CINE Golden Eagle and George Peabody Award.

Partisans of Vilna was the winner of a CINE Golden Eagle and the Anthropos First Prize, and received an American Film Festival honorable mention.

And now from Aviva Kempner comes Rosenwald, a feature-length historical documentary about businessman and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald. This historical partnership as well as the modern-day attempts to restore the schools is an inspiring story of philanthropy and local self-determination.

Kempner lives in Washington, DC where she plays a prominent role in the artist and film community. She started the Washington Jewish Film Festival in 1990. She is also an activist for voting rights for the District of Columbia. Kempner is the child of a Holocaust survivor and US army officer and was born in Berlin after WWII.

Her many accomplishments include: recipient of the 1996 Guggenheim Fellowship and the 2000 DC Mayor’s Art Award: 2001 Women of Vision award from D.C.’s Women in Film and Video chapter, the 2001 Media Arts award from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture and the 2009 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival's Freedom of Expression Awardee.

She writes film criticism and feature articles for numerous publications, including The Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Crystal City Magazine, The Forward, Baltimore Jewish Times, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Legal Times, The Wrap, Washington Jewish Week and The Washington Post.

She has written chapters in these various books:  God, Faith and Identity in the Ashes: Perspectives of Children and Grandchildren of Holocaust Survivors,Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg: Call Him the Hero of Heroes, When You Need A Little Lift: But Don’t Want To Eat Chocolate, Pay a Shrink, of Drink a Bottle of Gin, Jews and American Popular Culture, What Israel Means to Me, Daughters of Absence, and many more.


For more information,

please visit our website:


The Ciesla Foundation

Link for photos and poster:



Copyright © Museum of Family History. All rights reserved. Image Use Policy