On February 13, 2018 Aviva Kempner traveled to Chicago to share with residents in Julius Rosenwald’s hometown a few selected examples of the 39 bonus features created for the Rosenwald DVD.
Upon arrival in Chicago, Aviva made her way to the Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments, a building complex that was the brainchild of Julius Rosenwald to provide housing for the middle class in 1929. The building has been newly restored and is now known as the Rosenwald Courts. Robert Charles, a consultant to Alderwoman Pat Dowell who masterminded the political efforts of the restoration, guided Kempner through a tour of the reception areas and the renovated apartments.
The apartments were closed in 1999 and lay in disrepair for years. Kudos to the political push by Dowell and the $132 million renovation project, developed by Landwhite Developers, for restoring the building to its original glory. The reception areas on the first floor, beautifully designed by Ann Bergman of Paragon Commercial Interiors, reflect the legacy of the philanthropist and the Rosenwald Fund. The restoration is winning numerous awards, including an award from The Chicago Neighborhood Development earlier this year.
Posters of the Rosenwald film adorn the walls as well as photos of previous tenants such as Nat King Cole, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Metcalfe, Quincy Jones, Jessie Owens and works by Rosenwald Fund grant recipient Jacob Lawrence. The presence of these photos in the hallways serves as a testimony to the legacy of this building and the support it gave to the African American community during this period in history.
Once the storefronts are open and renovation is complete, Aviva Kempner and The Ciesla Foundation hope to commemorate the restoration of the Rosenwald Courts by presenting screenings of bonus features in the building.
Following the tour of the Michigan Boulevard Apartments, a Rosenwald bonus feature screening was held at Chicago Sinai Congregation. The bonus features shown were “1919 Chicago Riots,” “Michigan Boulevard Apartments,” “Rabbi Emil Hirsch,” and “Rosenwald and the NAACP.”
After the screening, Rabbi Seth M. Limmer, Senior Rabbi at Chicago Congregation, Dr. Barbara Bowman, previous tenant of the Michigan Boulevard Apartments and daughter of architect Robert Taylor, Alderwoman Pat Dowell, and Peter Ascoli, grandson and biographer of Julius Rosenwald joined Aviva for a panel discussion.
Current tenants of the Rosenwald Courts and members of Temple Sinai were in the audience. Educator and interviewee Don Stewart and Rosenwald school alumni William Buchner also attended.
Audience members enjoyed a lively and enriching conversation as the panelists spoke on the lasting impact Rosenwald had on Chicago and how Rabbi Hirsch was a great source of inspiration for Rosenwald. The event was co-sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League.