Poet Elizabeth Alexander Has a Rosenwald Connection

April 30th, 2015

Poet Elizabeth Alexander has a connection to Julius Rosenwald through her family.  Alexander’s grandfather was “the first treasurer at Tuskegee Institute at the time of Booker T. Washington,” probably when Julius Rosenwald was on the Tuskegee board.  Also, her mother’s uncle was artist Charles Alston, who received grants from the Rosenwald Fund in 1940 and 1941.  She will be discussing her new memoir, “The Light of the World,” at Politics and Prose Bookstore at 5015 Connecticut Avenue NW in DC on Saturday, May 2.  The memoir honors her late husband, Ficre Ghebreyesus, who was an artist, chef, and activist.  The memoir includes many of his recipes. To read more about Elizabeth Alexander, click here, and to learn more about the Rosenwald Fund, check out Rosenwald when it hits theaters all over the country later this year.



Nashville Screening of Rosenwald a Success

April 30th, 2015

The April 19th screening of Rosenwald at the Nashville Film Festival was a success, and was co-sponsored by the Nashville Jewish Film Festival.  We are excited to have had our first Southern screening.


The screening was not far from the restored Cairo Rosenwald school, where former students were interviewed for the film.  We spent a very productive time at Fisk University, where we searched the Rosenwald Fund files for documents and photos that are great visuals in the film.  The audience was very responsive to the film.  Participating in the discussion afterwards was Dr. Mary Hoffschwelle, author of “The Rosenwald Schools of the American South,” Peter Ascoli, biographer and grandson of Julius Rosenwald, Frank Brinkley, a former student and consultant to the restoration of the school, and filmmaker Aviva Kempner.  Rosenwald is being shown at film festivals all over the country in the upcoming months, with our next screening taking place in Charlotte on April 30.  Our other upcoming screenings are:

  • Toronto Jewish Film Festival-May 10 at Bloor Cinema, 5:00 PM
  • National Center for Jewish Film’s JEWISHFILM.2015-May 13 at the Museum of Fine Arts, 7:30 PM
  • Durham National Rosenwald Schools Conference-June 19 at the Durham Convention Center, 8:45 AM
  • San Francisco Jewish Film Festival-July TBD

Dr. Charles Drew to be Honored at National Inventors Hall of Fame

April 27th, 2015

Dr. Charles Drew will be honored at this year’s National Inventors Hall of Fame.  The NIHF, founded in 1973, ” honors monumental individuals who have contributed great technological and science achievements and helped stimulate growth for our nation and beyond. ”  It is only fitting, then, that Dr. Drew be honored.  He struggled financially through medical school, but a grant from the Rosenwald Fund allowed him to complete his studies.  He went on to become a leading authority on blood plasma prevention, improving techniques for blood storage and developing large-scale blood banks during World War I.  His work saved millions of lives, and we are glad to report the Rosenwald Fund helped him complete medical school.

charles drew

Photo courtesy of Charlene Drew Jarvis


To read more about this year’s NIHF honoring Dr. Drew, click here.  To learn more about how the Rosenwald fund affected Dr. Drew, check out Rosenwald when it hits theaters all over America later this year.  His story is told by his daughter, Charlene Drew Jarvis, formerly on the Council of the District of Columbia.

Loretta Lynch Confirmed as First Black Female Attorney General

April 24th, 2015

Loretta Lynch was just confirmed as the first black female attorney general after a 166-day wait for the vote.  Loretta’s father, Rev. Lorenzo Lynch, says her story begins with Julius Rosenwald, who built 5,300 public schools for African American children around the country.  Loretta’s mother went to one of the Rosenwald schools.  Loretta herself was very intelligent, doing so well on a standardized test that her white teachers made her take it again.  She graduated top of her senior class from Durham High School.  But still, Lorenzo was shocked when he found out about his daughter’s nomination.  Republicans used her nomination as a “proxy fight against Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.”  Lorenzo believes that his daughter’s legacy will be, “Don’t give up.”

To read more about Lynch’s connection to the Rosenwald schools, click here for the article from Politico, and to learn more about Julius Rosenwald, don’t forget to check out Rosenwald when it hits theaters all over America later this year.

Lincoln’s Assassination during Passover

April 14th, 2015


For the Jewish community in America, the memories of Lincoln’s death have a slightly different perspective than those who are not a part of the Jewish faith. Dying on a Saturday, the same day as the Jewish Sabbath, many of the first responses were given from the pulpit. Also, some of the rabbi recited the Hashkabah (prayer for the dead) in honor of Lincoln, the first time the prayer had been used for someone who was not Jewish. To read more about it, click here to look at an article by the Weekly Standard. 


Today is 150 Years since the tragedy at Ford’s Theatre

April 14th, 2015

April 14th, 1865, a day that will forever be remembered in American history. While President Abraham Lincoln and his wife were watching a performance of ‘The American Cousin’, John Wilkes Booth came behind him, shooting one America’s Top 3 Presidents in the back of the head. He died the following morning.

Photo Source: www.ushistory.com

To honor Lincoln, the Ford’s Theatre is currently hosting a special exhibition titled, “Silent Witnesses: Artifacts of the Lincoln Assassination”. There will be a round-the-clock event with costumed “witnesses” giving first-hand accounts of what happened that night. There will also be a host of other events to re-create the tragic day as well as the celebration of his life and the journey back to Springfield.

Greatly admired by Julius Rosenwald, Lincoln lived across the street from the birthplace of the great philanthropist. Lincoln was one of the biggest inspirations for all of his charity work. When Rosenwald was twelve years old, he answered an ad in the newspaper that wanted young and energetic boys to sell brochures about a monument that was made in Springfield and dedicated to the late president.

To read CNN’s full article about the anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination and a list of more events to commemorate it, click here.

Erica Marshall, Spring Intern

Lincoln returns to New Haven

April 9th, 2015
Painting of the 16th U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln

Photo Source: www.history.com

For the first time since March of 1860, former President Abraham Lincoln will return to the same place where he gave his unforgettable speech about slavery in America, New Haven, Connecticut. Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library has purchased the largest collection of private American photography dedicated to President Lincoln and the Civil War from the Meserve- Kunhardt Foundation. A family that has preserved and collected these artifacts for a span of over five generations runs the foundation!

Lincoln’s home was right down the block from where Julius Rosenwald was born and raised. He was president during a very pivotal time in American history that led to the abolition of slavery.  The collection began in 1897 as a father and son’s attempt to reestablish their relationship. What started as 100 salt prints form $1.10 grew to become 73,000 items, 57,000 of which are prints. Meserve’s goal was to collect every single picture of Lincoln, and he probably came very close to accomplishing it. A board member of the family’s foundation knew that housing it in an institution with better conditions was the only way to properly preserve it.

On April 13th, HBO will broadcast an hour-long documentary titled “The Photographs of Abraham Lincoln” which is about the Kundhardt family and the Lincoln collection.

To read more about the collection, go to this article written in The New York Times.

Erica Marshall, Spring Intern



Jacob Lawrence Exhibit at The Museum of Modern Art

April 6th, 2015

The article “‘One Way Ticket’ at MoMA Reunites Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Paintings” in The New York Times gives information about The Museum of Modern Art’s new exhibit “One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Movement North,” which brings together all 60 of Lawrence’s paintings at the museum for the first time in two decades.  It describes how Lawrence did not have a lot of money to create his Migration Series.  He used inexpensive materials like pencil, ink and tempera paint.  However, thanks to an “artist’s grant,” he was able to rent a studio large enough to allow him to view all 60 of the panels at the same time.  That grant came from Julius Rosenwald’s Rosenwald fund, which is not mentioned in the article.  Lawrence received three consecutive grants from the Rosenwald fund in 1940, 1941 and 1942, allowing him to finish the series relatively quickly.  The fact that Lawrence received these grants from the Rosenwald fund is an important part of the story of the Migration Series that does not deserve to be glossed over.  In fact, it was Rosenwald’s daughter, Adele Rosenwald Levy, who played a key role in MoMA’s acquisition of half of the panels.

Lawrence’s incredible series is discussed in the film Rosenwald.  We are happy to have the film coming out while the exhibit hangs at MoMA.

Portrait of Jacob Lawrence, 1941
Photo credit: Carl Van Vechten Collection, Library of Congress

Rosenwald to be screened at Nashville Film Festival

March 31st, 2015

Running from April 16th to April 25th over two weekends, the 46th annual Nashville Film Festival will showcase 200 films that beat out a staggering 3,550 submissions which means that some notable documentary, film, short filmmakers were left in the cold while others will be screened in competitive and non-competitive categories. That’s pretty impressive, right? Participating in the Documentary Feature Competition, Rosenwald will be screened on April 19th at the Green Hills Cinema- Theater 16 at 7:00pm. Tickets will go on sale on April 6th at 10:00am.

Sharing an even deeper connection than NaFF, The Cairo School was built in near Nashville, Tennessee in 1922 under the funds of the Rosenwald Fund. Today, it looks almost exactly as it did when it was built, with a gable-end entrance, double-hung sash windows, weatherboard siding, and a stone foundation. In 1959, the school closed. Then, in 2008, the Tennessee Preservation Trust (TPT) was awarded a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Lowe’s to rehabilitate the Cairo Rosenwald School. The main reason the school was rehabilitated was that the TPT had seen how much the Cairo School had anchored its community, bringing together people of all ages for social and educational purposes. It is now one of only three Rosenwald Schools still standing in Sumner County, TN. The Cairo School appears in Kempner’s film Rosenwald, as it is near the Rosenwald filming location of Nashville, TN.

Key research was also done at the historically black college in Tennessee, Fisk University, which houses the archives of the Rosenwald Fund.

Some notable interviewees in the film are Julian Bond, John Lewis, Cokie Roberts, Ben Jealous, and A’Lelia Bundles.

To get more information about purchasing a ticket and other films that will be screened at the NaFF, click here


Rosenwald Premiere a Success

March 23rd, 2015

The Ciesla Foundation is excited to announce that Aviva Kempner’s newest film, Rosenwald, formerly called The Rosenwald Schools, had a preview at the Washington Jewish Film Festival that she started twenty five years ago on February 25th at the Avalon Theatre in Washington, DC..

Before the screening, Carole Zawatsky, CEO of the DCJCC, and William “Bro” Adams, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities,  and Kempner delivered brief statements. Rosenwald was a huge success and received a standing ovation from the audience in the completely packed house.

In the audience was Max Cutler, who is 23 years old.  He was very impressed with the Julius Rosenwald story and emailed his comments about the film.

“He perfectly embodies the Jewish ideals I was raised to believe are important.  He didn’t just change lives.  America as we know it today is a direct result of what he did because of the influence he had on blacks.  Like the person who invented preservation techniques for blood marrow. Everyone should see it.  What he did with his life is exactly how I would want to live my life.  The fact that he did it with little recognition speaks more to the values he embodies and why he did it.  Not for the recognition.  He really just is what an ideal Jew should be.  It re-affirms what I believe and gives me a goal to strive towards.”

After the screening, both Kempner and civil rights activist Julian Bond, an interviewee and a consultant to the film, gave brief  statements.  She explained how she had heard Bond speak about Julius Rosenwald at an event at the Hebrew Center at Martha’s Vineyard years ago. That talk inspired her to make a film about the philanthropist.

Bond told a story in which his father was once driving in the south when his car suddenly got stuck in a hole filled with mud. Julian’s father assumed that someone had put the mud there just so they could charge him money to be pulled out. Two black men came out from behind the bushes and noticed that he was wearing nice clothes and was driving a nice car. When they asked whom Julian’s father was working for, he replied, “I work for the Rosenwald Fund”. The men responded, “Oh, you work for Captain Julius? There’ll be no charge”.

Overall, the premiere was a huge success and The Ciesla Foundation wishes to thank all those who contributed to and supported the making of the film.

Final music for the film is still being composed and arrangements are being made to obtain the footage and stills for the film. You can go to http://www.rosenwaldschoolsfilm.org/donate.php.