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

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

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

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

Loretta Lynch Confirmed as First Black Female Attorney General

Posted April 24th, 2015 by

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.

Jesse Owens honored on DC Mural

Posted April 16th, 2015 by

On April 10th, Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens was honored on a 15′ by 15′ mural, created by Duke Ellington students under the guidance of artist Mark Walker and presented by newly-elected Mayor Muriel Bowser.

It was presented on behalf of the students of The Duke Ellington School of the Arts, a DC public school. Winner of four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Owens was the son of a sharecropper and the grandson of a slave. At the height of his fame, he lived in the Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments, also know as the Rosenwald. He would go for his daily run and slow up so the children who ran with him could keep up.

The mural project was done in partnership with Duke Ellington, the DC Office of Motion Picture and Television Development, and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

Lincoln’s Assassination during Passover

Posted April 14th, 2015 by

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. 


Rosenwald to be screened at Nashville Film Festival

Posted March 31st, 2015 by

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

Posted March 23rd, 2015 by

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 premier 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

Renovating the Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments

Posted March 10th, 2015 by

Julius Rosenwald started making moves toward providing low-cost housing to African Americans in 1914. The African American population of Chicago was greatly growing during the Great Migration, which resulted in the 1919 race riot.  This caused Rosenwald to “devote funding to offsetting the Black belt housing crisis,” resulting in the building of the Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments (nicknamed “the Rosenwald”). The building was closed in 2000 due to a leaky gas pipe, and it’s physical condition has deteriorated ever since. However, nearly 15 years later, a permit has finally been received to renovate the apartments, and the development team is hoping that they will be completed by 2016. The new complex will be called the Rosenwald Courts, and the official groundbreaking ceremony occurred in February.

Read more about it here, and don’t forget to check out The Rosenwald Schools to hear more about the Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments.

Howard University Screening Recap

Posted March 9th, 2015 by

This has been a very busy week!

On Friday, Howard University and the Washington Jewish Film Festival hosted a screening of The Rosenwald Schools in the School of Communications.  In the audience were some Howard faculty, donors, and even former students and family of former students who attended Rosenwald Schools in Maryland, Arkansas, and North Carolina.

Howard has a strong connection with Julius Rosenwald and the Rosenwald fund, serving as a great benefactor to great historical figures like Ernest Just and Charles R. Drew. It was given over $280,000, more financial assistance than any other black college had been given between 1917 and 1936.

As interviewees and other viewers watched the finished product, they laughed and learned even more than they though they would, commending director Aviva Kempner on a job well done. Following the screening, a panel discussion featuring Kempner, Political Science professor Jay Stewart, and biographer Stephanie Deutsch who answered several questions using knowledge from their area of expertise. The panel was insightful to both the audience members and the panelists as they all reviewed history from both research and first-hand experiences.

Several questions were posed, but the most common were how to preserve the history and legacy of Rosenwald Schools in addition to the importance of philanthropy. Siblings who are also Rosenwald alum, Newell Quinton and Alma Hackett, were featured in the film and attended a school in Eastern Shore, Maryland. Making a point to preserve the history of their school, they share their story with their local community and reach out to other students who were a part of the legacy.

Newell Quinton and Alma Hackett speaking during the panel discussion at Howard U

Ultimately, the pivotal role philanthropy and a desire for access to education stayed with each person who viewed the complete film. How rural communities managed to work with JR and local white officials to build a school was beyond amazing and more people need to be exposed to this part of American history.

Erica Marshall, Winter Intern