Rosenwald shows at NAACP convention after President Obama delivers a speech

July 16th, 2015

On Tuesday, July 14 summer associate Kellen Patterson and director Aviva Kempner had the privilege of showing ROSENWALD at an evening screening at the NAACP’s 106th National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They were honored to have shown the film a few hours after President Barack Obama spoke about criminal justice to the delegates. While watching the film their excitement grew when members saw former NAACP President Ben Jealous give his poignant accounts of the NAACP’s history. Rosenwald received a thunderous rounds of applause from audience members. NAACP board member Julian Board and former board member Rabbi David Saperstein, who are both interviewed in the film, joined the director to talk after the film.

Rabbi David Saperstein, Julian Bond and Aviva Kempner

Rabbi David Saperstein, Julian Bond and Aviva Kempner

The most moving part of the evening was when audience members related their positive and personal experiences about attending or restoring Rosenwald Schools. One woman spoke of the strong impact the Rosenwald School she attended had on her pursing higher education. Another gentleman revealed that he went to a Rosenwald School 50 years ago and just discovered who Julius Rosenwald was that evening. Audience members agreed to promote the Rosenwald film in their communities. And one young man from Atlanta testified that the film had shown him how he could become involved in “repairing the world.” We plan on posting a link to our soon-to-be updated website that connects those who are restoring schools or want to talk about their experiences attending them.


July 16th, 2015

We are pleased to announce that last Thursday, July 9, Rosenwald had a wonderful New York premiere at the Center for Jewish History.  The film screened in conjunction with the new exhibit “Allied in the Fight: Jews, Blacks and the Struggle for Civil Rights.”  The screening went extremely well, and the audience loved the film.  After the showing, director Aviva Kempner held a panel discussion with civil rights activist Julian Bond, author Dr. Hasia Diner, author Eli Evans and Rabbi David Saperstein.

Rosenwald will have a theatrical release later this summer, starting in New York City on August 14 at the Sunshine Cinema (143 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002).  Visit the Screenings page on our website ( to find out everywhere else Rosenwald will be opening.


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Photo: Julian Bond, Aviva Kempner, Eli Evans, Dr. Hasia Diner

Aviva Kempner’s Filmmaker Letter for Landmark Theatres

July 7th, 2015

Rosenwald will be opening in Landmark Theatres all over the country later this summer, and director Aviva Kempner’s filmmaker letter has just gone live on their website.  In it, she describes the moment she first heard civil rights activist Julian Bond speak about Julius Rosenwald during a talk at the Hebrew Center on Martha’s Vineyard.  It was there that “a flash bulb exploded in [her] head” and she decided to make a film on the under known philanthropist.  She was intrigued by how Rosenwald’s story was similar to a “modern day immigrant saga or a start-up success story.”  She also felt his work is still relevant today, “as America needs to address racial inequalities in our society.”  She hopes audiences will leave the theater “motivated to act.”  You can read her full letter here, and don’t forget to see Rosenwald when it comes to theaters in August.

Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series Reunited

July 7th, 2015

The year was 1939 when artist Jacob Lawrence became intrigued with the migration of those born in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and the like, to factory Northern towns such as Harlem, Philadelphia, and Chicago.  He conveyed this story using pencil and tempera onto 60 wooden boards, to be seen as one cohesive work: the Migration Series.  His series would become the best-known images of the Great Migration, and the panels were later claimed by the Museum of Modern Art and the Phillips Collection.  The panels have been reunited, however, at MoMa through September 7 and at the Phillips Collection in 2016.  The reunion is accompanied by the catalog, “Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series,” which was co-written by Elsa Smithgall of the Phillips Collection.  Smithgall is one of the many interviewees in Aviva Kempner’s new film Rosenwald.  MoMA assistant curator Jay Leda was one of Lawrence’s mentors, and encouraged the Julius Rosenwald Fund to grant Lawrence a fellowship for his Migration Series.  Read more about it here.  You can learn more about Jacob Lawrence and the Migration Series in Rosenwald, hitting theaters this August.

“Rosenwald” Shown at the 2015 National Rosenwald Schools Conference

July 7th, 2015

During the week of June 17-20 Aviva Kempner travelled to Durham, NC for the 2015 National Rosenwald Schools Conference. This gathering is a chance for everybody directly or indirectly involved with Rosenwald Schools and Rosenwald’s legacy to come together to discuss the current state of the schools and celebrate the long lasting positive effects of his philanthropy. Many schools today are abandoned and neglected, and in 2002 the schools were placed on the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list.  People from all walks of life, including artists, teachers, and historians attended the events. Aviva was able to discuss her documentary in front of a large crowd. During her screening on June 19th, she offered them a glimpse into her film and her extensive research about Rosenwald and his extraordinary life.  She hopes that when people see the film, they will be inspired to donate to the restoration of the schools.   Rosenwald  hits theaters in August.  Don’t miss it!

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“Rosenwald” Screened at Association of Jewish Libraries Conference

July 7th, 2015

Rosenwald was screened at this year’s Association of Jewish Libraries Conference on Monday, June 22.  This year’s conference was entitled “Yovel/Jubilee: Celebrating 50 Years of AJL!”  The screeening was packed, with librarians from all over coming to see the film.  Director Aviva Kempner was so grateful for their attendance.  Following the screening, Aviva held a Q & A.  Rosenwald hits theaters this August, be sure to check it out!

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Copyright Office Causes Frustrations for Filmmakers

June 24th, 2015

For filmmakers, the process of finding out who owns the rights to material they want to use in their film can be a lengthy process.  Many have to turn to the Copyright Office, which is responsible for “the legal underpinnings of the copyright industry.”  Often filmmakers have to send someone themselves to search through the documents to avoid paying $200 an hour for a member of the Copyright Office staff to do it (as well as waiting six weeks for a response).  Documentary filmmaker Aviva Kempner, whose new film Rosenwald will be in theaters later this summer, has had to deal with trying to find out rights information from the Copyright Office and described the experience as “like pulling teeth.”  Kempner’s lawyer, copyright attorney Janet Fries, says her struggle with the Copyright Office is “very typical.”  Kempner estimates that sometimes weeks are added to a film’s production due to the process.  Efforts have been made since 2008 to modernize the process to no avail.  Some people in Congress are pushing to turn the Copyright Office into a government office to help address people’s needs more efficiently.  Read more about it here in The LA Times.

“Rosenwald” Headed to the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival

June 23rd, 2015

The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival has just announced the schedule for their 35th festival, and we are pleased to announce Rosenwald is in the lineup!  The film is a part of Take Action Day, which celebrates social justice filmmaking and the filmmakers and film subjects who are making a difference with their actions.  In July 2009, the film’s director, Aviva Kempner, received the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival’s Freedom of Expression Award in recognition of her significant contribution to creating positive images of Jewish heroes in film and for her work as a Jewish film curator.  The screening will take place on Friday, July 31 at 6:30 PM at the Castro Theater (429 Castro Street at Market, San Francisco, CA).  Click here to buy your tickets now.  Aviva will also participate in the “Taking A Stand” panel with Rick Goldsmith, Judith Helfand,and Melissa Donovan to discuss, amongst other things, her filmmaking and Jewish identity.  The panel is free at 5:00 PM, also at the Castro Theater.  We hope to see you there!

Rosenwald and girls

Michelle Obama Speaks at Tuskegee

June 16th, 2015

Michelle Obama has been giving commencement speeches at colleges all over the country, including Tuskegee University.  It is no surprise that Obama chose to speak there, as her close friend Valerie Jarrett’s great-grandfather, Robert Robinson Taylor, is an icon of the college.  His story of how he established an architecture school and designed several buildings at Tuskegee, as well as the Rosenwald schools, is discussed in Rosenwald.  In her speech, she spoke about the struggles of the Tuskegee airmen, the military’s first black pilots.  The Rosenwald Fund loaned the money to build the field for the airmen.   Read more about her speech at Tuskegee in The Washington Post here, and to learn more about the Tuskegee airmen, don’t forget to check out Rosenwald when it hits theaters later this summer.

Michelle Obama Tuskegee

Photo Credit: Inside Edition

Rosenwald School Restored in Walnut Cove, North Carolina

June 3rd, 2015

A Rosenwald school in Walnut Cove, North Carolina has been restored and is now being used as the Walnut Cove Senior Citizen’s Center.  Even schools that have been abandoned have the potential to be restored to their former glory.  See the picture of the restored school here, and don’t forget to check out Rosenwald when it hits theaters later this summer to find out more about the Rosenwald schools.