Letter from Sylvia Drew Ivie, Daughter of Rosenwald Fellowship Recipient Dr. Charles R. Drew

Posted August 28th, 2015 by

Julius Rosenwald awarded a fellowship to my father, Charles R. Drew, M.D., in 1932 when he was on the verge of dropping out of McGill Medical School. His father had been laid off as a carpet layer in Virginia due to the depression. In his letter of thanks for the fellowship my father said “It is my constant hope that I shall be able at some time to add some new thought, discover some new process or create something which will prevent or cure disease, alleviate suffering or give men a chance to live and thereby (I can) in part repay the debt which I am happy to acknowledge.” Spencie Love, One Blood, University of North Carolina Press, 1996, p. 116. Later, based on a thesis titled “Banked Blood” written for a Doctorate at Columbia, he was chosen as Medical Director of Blood for Britain, an emergency project to send liquid plasma to British soldiers on battlefields in France during World War II. . Based on that performance, the Red Cross called upon him to set up their first stored plasma Red Cross Blood Bank, a New York City program that became the model for blood collection all over the country. Spencie Love,16. Julius Rosenwald made prescient philanthropic investments in the education of African Americans to the lasting betterment of our nation, and in my father’s case, saving lives, still, across the world.

-Sylvia Drew Ivie, daughter of Dr. Charles R. Drew

Charles Drew

To hear more about Dr. Charles R. Drew’s story, don’t forget to see Rosenwald, in theaters now. Click here to find a screening near you!

Bring New Children’s Books to The Avalon This Weekend

Posted August 27th, 2015 by

Vinyard screening with a great panel!

Posted August 27th, 2015 by

On August 26, Rosenwald opened at Martha’s Vineyard Film Center in Vineyard Haven, MA, starting it’s limited, four-screening run at the location. After the film, Aviva Kempner lead a discussion with Linda Levi (Great granddaughter of Julius Rosenwald) to a sold out crowd.

On Thursday night at the Strand Theater in Oak Bluff, Kempner showed the film and discussed it with Kenneth Mack (Harvard Law School), Lisa Jones (independent producer), and Joyce Ladner (SNCC, Howard University).

Pictured (left to right): Kenneth Mack, Lisa Jones, and Joyce Ladner


Posted August 24th, 2015 by

We are excited to announce a special screening of Rosenwald presented by The Jewish Historical Society! It will take place on Monday, August 31, 2015 from 7:45-10:00 PM at The Avalon Theatre (5612 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20015). Aviva Kempner will make pre-show remarks with Norris Dodson, who played basketball at the Thurgood Marshall YMCA and went on to become instrumental in helping restore the building. You can buy tickets here. Rosenwald will begin its commercial run at the Avalon this Friday, August 28th. For times and tickets, click here.

Julian’s Memorial

Posted August 22nd, 2015 by

“[On August 22nd] while Julian’s family scattered his ashes at sea, his Southern Poverty Law Center family and friends gathered at the Civil Rights Memorial to remember him.” It is no question that Julian Bond was a great man and will be missed dearly by the many lives he touched.

Although she could not be at the memorial, Aviva stopped to take the time to remember the late Julian Bond. In his memory, she threw flowers into the water at Fairmount Park. Before the second throwing of flowers, she ran into a lovely, recently engaged couple and others who were on a picnic and discussing local politics who were all touched at the passing of Julian Bond and joined Aviva in throwing flowers out into the water in his memory.

Aviva stands with the family before they toss their flowers

Newly engaged couple shows us the ring!

Aviva spent the remainder of her trip in Philly attending the opening of Rosenwald at the Ritz at the Bourse. Joining her in her discussion was Julius Rosenwald’s great grandson, Dan Kaufman. In the audience was a man and his son whose middle names where Rosenwald- so attributed to them by the man’s father who had attended a Rosenwald school himself.

New opening at the Cinema Arts Theater in Huntington, NY!

Posted August 21st, 2015 by

On August 21st, Rosenwald screened at the Cinema Arts Theater in Huntington, NY. Afterwards, the fervent crowd participated in a Q&A and discussion about the film with director, Aviva Kempner.

Aviva Kempner presents Rosenwald at the Cinema Arts Center

People Around The World Come Together To Remember Julian Bond

Posted August 21st, 2015 by

We are saddened with the passing of Julian Bond, who inspired Aviva Kempner to make the film when he talked about Julius Rosenwald at a lecture at the Hebrew Center 12 years ago on the Vineyard. The family is spreading his ashes in Florida on Saturday and asks that people go by a body of water and throw flowers into the water at 3pm EST. Please post photos of your ceremony to social media with the hashtag #HonorJulianBond. Aviva will be in Philly on Saturday opening Rosenwald and will do it there.

For those who live in DC, below is what is organized by DC VOTE to honor Julian Bond. Bond was a student of MLK and Kempner had filmed Julian Bond for a promo for voting rights for DC residents. He was always a fighter for justice. And Julian Bond is just wonderful in Rosenwald.

Those wishing to honor Bond’s memory in the DC area are asked to gather at the Tidal Basin by the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the 22nd.

  • Who: Those in the DC area who have been inspired by Julian Bond, including DC Vote Executive Director Kimberly Perry, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Ralph Neas
  • Where: 1964 Independence Ave SW at the Tidal Basin
  • When: 3:00 PM on Saturday August 22nd

How to Best Honor Julian Bond, the Great Civil Rights Advocate

Posted August 19th, 2015 by

The Family and Friends of Julian Bond are grateful for the outpouring of love and support during this time. Throughout his life Julian Bond was a leader in the movements for civil rights, economic justice, and peace. For those who wish to honor Julian Bond’s legacy:

1.) Please consider making a donation to the University of Virginia College and Graduate School of Arts and Science “Julian Bond Professorship of Civil Rights and Social Justice.” Your donation will honor his legacy and advance teaching and scholarship of the civil rights era for future generations of students. Donations can be made online at www.giving.virgina.edu/julianbond

2.) On Saturday August 22, friends of Julian Bond will gather at bodies of water across the world to reflect on his legacy and release flowers in his honor. We encourage those who wish to honor his legacy to organize a flower release in your community. Flower releases will take place across the world at 3pm EDT/ 2pm CDT/ 1 pm MDT/ Noon PDT. Participants are encouraged to share photos of their flower release events and use the hashtag #HonorJulianBond and post your event at the URL www.DCVote.org/Julian-Bond

3.) It is likely the public memorial service for Julian Bond will be in Washington, DC around September 10th, though the exact date and location has not been selected.

While we are feeling the sorrow of his loss, we can come together for support, build community and continue his legacy and struggle for justice, freedom, peace and democracy.

Julian Bond Remembered

Posted August 17th, 2015 by

Rosenwald director Aviva Kempner made an appearance on MSNBC this morning to discuss the tragic passing of Julian Bond on Saturday. Kempner was joined by Rev. Al Sharpton and journalist April Ryan. She discussed the fact that Bond was a tireless civil rights activist, whether it be for things such as voting rights for the District of Columbia or gay rights, which Rev. Sharpton noted at the time was not popular within the black community. He added that “[Bond] didn’t play to his base, he led his base.” Kempner called her late friend “very funny, very intellectual” and described how during her many outings with Julian and his wife, Pamela, “invariably someone would come up and say, ‘Are you Julian Bond?’ He’d smile, he’d give them time and you know what he’d usually say? ‘Everyday. I’m Julian Bond everyday.’” Click here to watch the full interview at msnbc.com.

The Ciesla Foundation Mourns the Passing of Julian Bond

Posted August 16th, 2015 by

The Ciesla Foundation mourns the passing of civil rights activist Julian Bond, whose speech twelve years ago at the Hebrew Center at Vineyard Haven inspired me to make this film on Julius Rosenwald. As a consultant Julian guided me every step of the way about who to interview, where to look for materials, what the story line was, what photo to use in the poster, and most of all how important Julius Rosenwald was to African American history. He always guided me with humor and kindness.

Julian not only inspired me in the making of Rosenwald, he delivered one of the best lines in the film that was edited towards film’s closing.

“You can look at the people who got grants from Julius Rosenwald, and say, these are the predecessor generation to the civil rights generation that I’m a part of. And I’m a predecessor generation to the Obama generation that resulted in the election of the first black president of the United States.”

When we appeared together to speak after the film, Bond loved to tell the story about his father, who was working for the Rosenwald Fund. His father, Horace Mann Bond, 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 African American 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”.

Aviva Kempner and Julian Bond speaking at the Washington Jewish Film Fesitval. Photo credit: Aryeh Schwartz, Washington Jewish Film Festival

What I am most grateful is that Julian Bond and his beloved wife Pamela Horowitz became dear friends during the twelve years it took to finish the film. We were all looking forward to taking ROSENWALD all over the country to show how Julius Rosenwald’s vision for a better America was so needed today. Am happy that Julian, Rabbi David Saperstein and myself presented the film at the NAACP convention in Philadelphia on July 14 and he was able to hear the warm response to the film.

From now on all my introductions to the film will be dedicated to Julian Bond’s bravery and legacy. The country lost a great hero today and his legacy made for a better America.

Aviva Kempner


Posted August 14th, 2015 by

On August 14th, Rosenwald had it’s opening night in NYC at the Sunshine Theater. The premiere was attended by many relatives of Julius Rosenwald. Also in attendance were Aviva Kempner and editor Mariam Hunter.

The premiere was proceeded by a lovely party hosted by Peter and Lucy Ascoli, who were in from Chicago.

(left to right): Annette Insdorf, Eva Fogelman, Editor Marian Hunter, and Aviva Kempner

The Rosenwald grandchildren: Elizabeth Varet, Nina Rosenwald, and Peter Ascoli

While the Sunshine Theater (located on East Houston Street in Manhattan) opened December 21, 2001, the building has been around since 1898. In the past, the building as operated as the Houston Hippodrome Motion Picture Theater, a Yiddish vaudeville house, and a hardware warehouse. It’s restoration as a movie theater can be attributed to Landmark Theaters- their renovations have brought the theater into the 21st century with stadium seating, surround sound, and gourmet concessions. The theatre also offers attractions such as a Japanese rock garden and a viewing bridge that offers breathtaking city views from the third story spectacular glass annex. The restoration was a team effort—floor plans by TK Architects and interior design by architects Tony Pleskow and Tom Rael of Pleskow + Rael.

The Historic Sunshine Theater

The area surrounding the theater played host to a variety of great Jewish restaurants, including Ross and Daughters, Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery, and Katz’s Delicatessen.

Aviva Tours New York!

Posted August 12th, 2015 by

Upon return to the East Coast the film was shown at the Stamford beautifully renovated Avalon movie theatre in Connecticut.

After Connecticut, Aviva spent her time in New York, promoting Rosenwald before its opening on August 16th at Landmark’s Sunshine theatre by attending various preview screenings and giving talks throughout the area.

After a screening of the film at the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan, Dr. Annete Insdorf held a discussion with filmmaker, Aviva Kempner and interviewee Elizabeth Varet (Julius Rosenwald’s granddaughter) on August 11th.

Elizabeth Varet (Julius Rosenwald’s granddaughter) in front of the Old Broadway Synagogue in Harlem

During trip Aviva and Elizabeth talked about the film at the historic Old Broadway Synagogue in Harlem. Although the building has undergone several renovations, it is still in need of more. You can help the Synagogue by donating here.

Happy birthday to Julius Rosenwald!

Posted August 12th, 2015 by

Julius Rosenwald, circa 1915
Original photo: Bain News Service, Library of Congress

Today, August 12th, would have been Julius Rosenwald’s 151st birthday, and coincidentally The Rosenwald Schools production received a “gift” today from the National Center for Jewish Film: some moving images of J.R. we hadn’t seen before in a 1914 film about the Agro-Joint, a program supported by Rosenwald that economically empowered Jews who were facing discrimination in Russia and other countries.

It was on this day in 1912 that Rosenwald first started becoming a prominent philanthropist. On his birthday of that year, he announced gifts totaling $687,500 to various Chicago institutions (the West Side Charities, the University of Chicago, a social workers “Country Club”) in a move that was reported on in newspapers across the country, including the two New York papers pictured below.

1. Front page, New-York Tribune, Aug 12, 1912, LOC
2. Page 7, The Sun, Aug 13, 1912, LOC

As part of his birthday gifts, J.R. also made a $25,000 donation to Tuskegee Institute for Booker T. Washington to disburse as he saw fit. That money ended up going towards the pilot program for the Rosenwald Schools, a school-building program that would last until 1930 and result in over 5,000 rural schools for African American chidren.

At the outset of his career as a philanthropist (which began, unlike some other notable figures, while he was still heavily involved with Sears operations) Rosenwald seems to already have the clear philosophy of giving that would govern his philanthropy until he died. As he says in The Sun article above: “I do not believe in the practice of giving money away after death. I believe in seeing the money that is not necessary being used for the help and betterment of others. It is a great satisfaction… We should give while we live and not when we are gone.”

Going to California

Posted August 5th, 2015 by

Aviva Kempner took a trip to California during late July and early August to promote Rosenwald, screening the film at various theaters throughout the area to many wonderful crowds.

First, a preview screening of Rosenwald was held at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, CA on July 27th where it was warmly received in a packed house. The event was held in collaboration with the NAACP Hollywood Bureau and TheWrap. After the show, Sharon Waxman, journalist and founder of TheWrap, interviewed the director Aviva Kempner. Among those in the audience were actor Shelly Berman, who has a brief appearance in the film and director Arthur Hiller, former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with his family.

Pictured: Sharon Waxman (left) and Aviva Kempner (right)

On July 31st, Aviva Kempner returned to the Castro Theatre in San Francisco to screen her fourth film at the wonderful San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. Started as the first Jewish Film Festival in the world in 1980, the festival has gone on for over 35 years, where it has continued to be one of the largest Jewish film festivals.

The film was preceded by the “Taking a Stand” panel discussion that included Aviva herself- as well as Rick Goldsmith, Judith Helfand, and Melissa Donovan. They took the time to “discuss their filmmaking careers, Jewish identity, activist filmmaking,
empowerment and community engagement.”

In 2009, Aviva Kempner was awarded the Freedom of Expression Award from the San Francisco Film Festival for her work on Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg!

After the screening of Rosenwald, Aviva Kempner and Julius Rosenwald’s grandson, Peter Ascoli, were welcomed to the stage to answer questions by a standing ovation. In the audience were a dozen West Coast members of the Rosenwald family who enthusiastically embraced the movie.

The Marquee of the Castro Theatre in San Francisco

After the screening at the San Francisco Film Festival, on August 2nd Aviva headed over to the Official screening of Rosenwald for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. The screening was followed by a Q&A with Aviva, moderated by Patt Morrison (LA Times). Among Academy members was Kempner’s favorite European actor, Armin Mueller Stahl.

The following day, Aviva attended a preview screening of the film for Reel Talk at the Landmark Theater in Los Angeles. The screening was also followed by a Q&A- moderated by Reel Talk host, Stephen Farber. Kempner’s favorite American actor, Ed Asner in the audience.

Aviva Kempner was joined by Elizabeth Varet and Ed Asner

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