Rosenwald ranked #24 Best film of 2015!

The results are in! After a “smart rating system” took into account all the ratings and reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb, Metacritic, and Gracenote, as well as box office results- Rosenwald was determined to be the 24th best film of 2015!

See the full list, here!

Happy Thanksgiving and ROSENWALD updates from China and the South!

Best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving from everyone here at The Ciesla Foundation! We are so grateful to have released Rosenwald in over 100 theaters all over the country to enthusiastic audiences. The film just opened in several cities throughout the South as a conclusion of its theatrical run. The film will still appear at some final theaters through December and early next year. Read the website for locations. Non theatrical screenings are being booked throughout the land, and we are actively fundraising and developing the two disc DVD.

Thanks to all you all for supporting the film, appearing in the film and promoting the film. Below are our latest reports from the last month of intense travel and worldwide exposure.

-Aviva Kempner and The Ciesla Foundation team

From America to China with the Rosenwald film

     The past several weeks have marked an exciting time for the Rosenwald film as Aviva took the film across the country, spreading the story of Julius Rosenwald’s philanthropy and generosity. Two weeks ago, Aviva Kempner landed in China on a trip to attend the 12th Annual American Studies Network Conference at Peking University as a keynote speaker with Rabbi Andy Baker of the American Jewish Committee. She arrived in China on a day called “Singles Day”, which promotes giving presents to single people. Seems like a good promotional holiday for the States.

Singles Day Cakes

The days preceding the conference, Aviva had the opportunity to see the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, Forbidden City, and Tienanmen Square, attend a lovely Shabbat service in Beijing that reminded her of Fabrangen in Washington DC, and even meet a new friend in her hotel lobby!

He only speaks two languages: Chinese and Friendship
Summer Palace
Summer Palace with some students
With Rabbi Baker at the entrance to the Forbidden City
Camel from the Forbidden City Museum

On November 14th, Aviva gave a keynote address on “Jewish-African American Alliance of the Early 20th Century” and spoke in the preceding panel discussion, in which she engaged with an audience of mostly Chinese students and told them about Julius Rosenwald’s relationship with Booker T Washington, paralleling it with a story of Hank Greenberg and Jackie Robinson. Clips from each of her films were shown to augment the talk. Aviva dedicated her speech to the victims in Paris and how her discussion of alliances is what should inspire us.

Aviva with Israeli Ambassador and Rabbi Baker at the dinner after the conference.
On the stage at the 12th Annual American Studies Network Conference

The next leg of the trip was to Shanghai, where Aviva gave a speech for “Documenting the Holocaust: The second generation’s responsibility” at the Forum Celebrating Shanghai: Haven for Jews in Holocaust in Commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of Survival of Holocaust Victims in Shanghai. In the speech, she talked about how the story of her family’s journey during World War II impacted on the World War II themes in all her films. She detailed her early life growing up and the experiences she had the led to making Partisans of Vilna, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, Yoo-Hoo Mrs. Goldberg, and eventually Rosenwald. She finished her speech by stressing the importance of remembering World War II so that the horrors experienced then can be avoided forever. The event was sponsored by the Center for Jewish Studies Shanghai (CJSS) at SASS with the US-China Education Trust (USCET).

Shanghai itself houses a moving testament to the saving of European Jews. During World War II, 25,000 Jews found shelter in Shanghai after fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. On the 70th anniversary of survival of Jewish refugees in Shanghai and the end of WWII in the Pacific, this Forum commemorates Shanghai’s role as a haven for many European Jewish refugees at a time when most other countries, including the United States, closed their doors to all but a fortunate few. Joining Kempner was Welcome Remarks
 Professor Pan Guang, Dean, Center for Jewish Studies Shanghai at SASS.

The forum began with an introduction
 from Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch (President, USCET). Also in attendance was Rabbi Andrew Baker (Director of International Jewish Affairs, American Jewish Committee) and Prof. Dr. Wang Jian (Associate Dean, CJSS). The forum offered sessions such as “Coming to Terms with the Holocaust: Money, Memory, Politics and Responsibility” and “New Perspective on Jewish Refugees in Wartime Shanghai”.

While in the area, Kempner toured the incredible Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum—where the rescue of 25,000 European Jews is documented and celebrated. Erwin Li, who is serving in the Austrian Service Abroad as a Holocaust Memorial Servant at the Center of Jewish Studies – Academy of Social Sciences, took Aviva around the Museum.

Outside of the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum with tour guide Erwin Li, a Chinese-Austrian, who is working in Shanghai for a year.
A plaque dedicated to Ho Feng Shan, a man who helped save many Jewish Refugees by giving them visas to leave Vienna. He should be remembered as a courageous, “righteous gentile.”

From China to Charleston

A day after returning from China, Aviva traveled to Charleston, SC to attend the wonderful premiere of Rosenwald, co-sponsored by the National Trust for Historical Preservation and the Pearlstine/Lipov Center for Southern Jewish Culture, at the American Theater. Special thanks to Dale Rosengarten, Tracy Hayes, and Katherine Carey for their help. The event went off without a hitch!

The screening was preceded by a reception and an introduction by John Hildreth (Eastern Regional Vice President for Field Services for the National Trust for Historic Preservation) and was concluded with a Q&A with Aviva Kempner, moderated by Shari Rabin (Associate Director, Pearlstine/Lipov Center for Southern Jewish Culture).

While staying in Charleston, Aviva had the wonderful fortune of visiting Callie’s Charleston Biscuits- who quite possibly have the best biscuits in the South. Another great eatery that would be a disservice not to mention was Jestine’s Kitchen- delicious Southern food with a very welcoming owner- Dana Berlin Strange. If you’re in the Charleston area, pay them a visit and check out the collection of salt and pepper shakers on the wall, including a set sent from Aviva in the past. She also opened the film during its Charleston commercial run on Friday night and had dinner with friends.

Marquee in Savannah featuring the Bond film in the same line. But our film includes the best Bond–Julian Bond.

After spending time in Charleston, it was time for Aviva to head to Savannah, GA for another opening at a theater there. This travel was made possible by Ace Basin Bus, a new shuttle service that provides a daily transit between the historic districts of Charleston and Savannah. Run by urban planner, Ben Cotton the road was smooth and comfortable.

Ace Basin Bus and it’s owner/driver, Ben Cotton

In Savannah, Aviva spoke with Mayor Edna Branch Jackson, Alderman Van Johnson, and a relative of Julius Rosenwald, Robert Rosenwald, who were all kind enough to attend the screening. The screening in Savannah was a great success, with many students in attendance that came out to support the film and it’s message.

Students attending the Rosenwald screening in Savannah
Aviva with Mayor Edna Branch Jackson
Alderman Don Johnson (left) and Robert Rosenwald (right)

While in Savannah, Aviva also had time to visit the SCAD (Savannah College for Art and Design) Museum, which was filled with lots of incredible art, including this piece from the Jacob Lawrence show entitled, “History, Labor, Life: The Prints of Jacob Lawrence”:

Jacob Lawrence, The 1920’s… The Migrants Arrive and Cast Their Ballots

On her last day in Savannah, Rabbi Robert Haas was kind enough to give Aviva a tour of the oldest, purposefully built synagogue in America, Savannah’s Congregation Mickve Israel. Here is a picture of a beautiful stain glass window found in the synagogue:

The real troopers for the release of the film in Savannah were Jeanne and Robert Rosenwald, who is a relative of Julius Rosenwald and the son of a cousin rescued from Nazi Germany by Juluis’ children. They worked tirelessly to get people interested in coming to the film and also hosted Aviva.

Aviva is happy to be home and with her family for Thanksgiving, and she wishes the same for all of our followers!

Rosenwald listed in Hollywood Reporter

Last week, the Hollywood Reporter put out an article titled: “Political Maneuvers: Filmmakers tackle hot topics (gun control, terrorism), rich history and a forgotten hero” by Gregg Kilday. The article listed and described some of the many documentaries that came out this year. Most of the documentaries dealt with the darker side of human existence- but the list ended on a bright note, describing Rosenwald and reminding us that “the news isn’t all grim”. When held side by side among its peers, it seems that Rosenwald paints a bright and optimistic view on the potential of people- shinning bright in a dismal pool of negative documentaries.

Julian’s Memorial

“[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.

People Around The World Come Together To Remember Julian Bond

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

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.