Ciesla’s offices are currently closed. We hope you all stay safe and healthy in these uncertain times.
Take care, Aviva and the Ciesla staff.
A Rosenwald Park
A bill authored by House Democratic Reps. Steve Cohen of Tennessee and Danny Davis of Illinois (who is interviewed in Rosenwald) would establish a national park to honor Julius Rosenwald, the philanthropist who established schools throughout the South to remedy the afflictions of segregation. This week the Natural Resources Committee advanced the bill.
“Julius Rosenwald was a visionary philanthropist whose altruism and philosophy of giving embodied the Jewish concept of tzedakah — social justice and charity,” Cohen said. “He partnered with African American communities across the South to help build schools for children with limited access to good public education.”
Rosenwald School News
Citizen Times from Asheville, North Carolina reports on the Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School:
In other Rosenwald school updates, The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation has announced the Eleanor Roosevelt School building in Warm Springs, Georgia has been has been sold to Debron Williams and his sister Voncher Williams
, who are keeping preservation in mind moving forward. The Trust made the announcement on March 14, 2020.
March 14th is known to some math enthusiasts as “Pi Day,” and to even more as the birthday of legendary physicist Albert Einstein. Looking back, it’s hard to forget one of his most iconic birthdays in 1949, when children who were relocated from a displaced persons camp visited Einstein at his home in Princeton, New Jersey. Also present, the man responsible for the children’s visit, none other than Julius Rosenwald’s son, William Rosenwald. We were proud to have interviewed William Rosenwald’s daughters, Alice Rosenwald and Elizabeth Varet, in Rosenwald.
Image from Time.com, Albert Einstein celebrating his 70th birthday with children from a displaced persons camp on March 13, 1949, at his home in Princeton, N.J. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
Madam C.J. Walker tackled the politics of black hair. More than a century later, the battle still rages on.
(Photo of Madam C.J. Walker from Biography.com: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Series Debuts on the Life of Madam C.J. Walker
Businesswoman Madam C.J. Walker is the subject of Self Made
, a new series on Netflix. Among her many accomplishments, Walker generously contributed to the founding of a Black YMCA in Indianapolis. Her story is also featured in Rosenwald.
Self Made is based on the true story of Walker, an African American washerwoman who rises from poverty to build a beauty empire and become the first female self-made millionaire. The series stars Octavia Spencer as Walker along with Tiffany Haddish and Carmen Ejogo.
Watch a Free Rosenwald Bonus Feature on Madam C.J. Walker
The Ciesla Foundation also produced a bonus feature on Madam Walker, which is among the four-and-a-half hours of bonus features found on the Rosenwald DVD. Order your DVD here
and enjoy a preview, as we are offering the Walker bonus feature for free.
We were honored to interview DC-based journalist and writer A’Lelia Bundles in Rosenwald. Bundles spoke of how her great-great-grandmother Madam C.J. Walker donated funds to build a YMCA in Indianapolis.
After you see the Netflix series on Madam Walker, make sure to pick up her book Self Made (the inspiration for the series starring Octavia Spencer). Self Made was originally published as On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker.
Local Advice on the Pandemic
The Ciesla Foundation is located in Washington, DC in Ward 3. Our councilwoman, Mary Cheh, sent out these instructions as we all endure the pandemic:
“These tragic losses underscore the need for all of us to seriously undertake social distancing and to stay at home whenever possible—not just for our own sake, but for the safety and wellbeing of each other, especially in consideration of the elderly and those who have underlying medical conditions that make them especially vulnerable to this virus.”
Contact: Lianna Bright
Phone: (202) 362-5760
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, DC (July 16, 2018) – The Ciesla Foundation is pleased to announce the release of the Rosenwald Teaching Guide to accompany the DVD and bonus features of its latest film, Rosenwald. The film has screened nationwide at hundreds of film festivals and community events and was shown at the Obama White House.
Rosenwald is a documentary on the incredible story of how businessman and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald joined with Booker T. Washington and African-American communities to build over 5,500 schools for educating African-American youth in the Jim Crow South. This historical partnership, as well as the modern-day attempts to maintain or reconfigure the schools, is a great dramatic story, yet too little known.
The film also highlights the impactful work of the Rosenwald Fund and its support of the arts, medical research, and equal access to housing. The teaching guide will help bring these inspiring stories into the classroom.
The teaching guide was developed in collaboration with Teaching for Change and was funded by the Righteous Persons Foundation. The educator-ready curriculum is designed for middle school, high school, college, and teacher education programs. Each lesson challenges students to think critically about the ability of individual citizens to create a more equitable world and to draw connections between the events of the past and their own lives.
“The Rosenwald film and its uplifting messages of unity across racial and cultural lines continues to inspire a new generation and to reinvigorate the spirit of cooperation and speaking out against injustice,” said director Aviva Kempner. “This teaching guide will help shape the future generation of leaders and change makers.”
The 101-page guide includes lessons, a viewing guide, and teachable subjects for educational use. It is available for free use by educators and can be downloaded via the Rosenwald website at www.rosenwaldfilm.org/teaching-guide. It is intended for use with the Rosenwald DVD. To purchase the DVD, go to www.rosenwaldfilm.org.
About The Ciesla Foundation
Based in Washington, D.C., the Ciesla Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public, tax-exempt educational organization. Ciesla (pronounced CHESH-lä) produces documentaries that investigate non-stereotypical images of Jews in history and celebrates the untold stories of Jewish heroes. Ciesla was founded in 1979 by filmmaker Aviva Kempner, who serves as the director. Ciesla’s films have received numerous honors and awards, including a Peabody Award and top honors from the National Society of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the CINE Golden Eagle Award.
June 6, 2018 marked the 50th anniversary of the death of Robert F. Kennedy. A service was held at Arlington National Cemetery in honor of his legacy. Aviva Kempner, who attended the memorial, noticed historical parallels mentioned at the service with topics in the Rosenwald documentary.
The event began with a musical prelude, “Life Every Voice and Sing,” written by James Weldon Johnson and often referred to as the “Black/African-American National Anthem” (and also served as inspiration for the sculptor Augusta Savage’s famous piece “The Harp”). Writer and poet James Weldon received several Rosenwald grants in the dates 1928, 1930, and 1931.
One of several notable speakers at the memorial as well as an interviewee in the Rosenwald film was Congressman John Lewis. Congressman Lewis read the words from one of Robert Kennedy’s speeches. In the film, Congressman Lewis spoke of his successes and positive work he’s done for the country, an inspirational achievement knowing his humble beginnings were in a Rosenwald school.
The memorial, filled with musical performances and meaningful testimonies by Kennedy’s daughter Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, community leaders, and other elected officials, was not only a beautiful tribute to Robert F. Kennedy, but also served as a celebration to inspire us to continue to persevere in the face of adversity and build a better world.
For Immediate Release
Ciesla Foundation receives grant to promote racial healing through distribution of Rosenwald
film and bonus features
Washington, DC (April 21, 2018) – The Ciesla Foundation will distribute and showcase the DVD and bonus features of its fourth film, Rosenwald, as part of an ongoing effort to promote racial equity and social justice.
The outreach project is supported in part by a $173,614 grant from W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan. With this support, the Rosenwald DVD will have a wider release of the film at schools, universities, religious institutions and communities, especially those undergoing racial and economic tensions and anti-Semitic attacks.
“The Rosenwald film and its uplifting messages of unity across racial and cultural lines continues to inspire a new generation and to reinvigorate the spirit of cooperation and speaking out against injustice,” said director Aviva Kempner. “One goal of the project is to continue events on college campuses and community groups screening the Rosenwald DVD set with educational programs, especially directed to serve as rapid responses to racist and anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses.”
A tour of the film at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) was initiated last year to encourage a better understanding of cultural history, the Jim Crow era and Great Migration, and race relations and is conducted in the spirit of the Rosenwald Fund and its focus on giving.
The tour will continue as part of this outreach, placing special emphasis on scheduling joint programs between African American and Jewish groups, who were natural allies in the past for reasons celebrated in Rosenwald. These film screenings and discussions will allow for the rekindling of those historic alliances.
About The Ciesla Foundation
Based in Washington, D.C., The Ciesla Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public, tax-exempt educational organization. Ciesla (pronounced CHESH-lä) produces documentaries that investigate non- stereotypical images of Jews in history and celebrates the untold stories of Jewish heroes. Ciesla was founded in 1979 by filmmaker Aviva Kempner, who serves as the executive director.
The Ciesla Foundation’s other documentaries, including Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg and Partisans of Vilna, have received numerous honors and awards including top honors from the Peabody Award, National Society of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the CINE Golden Eagle Award. Through insightful and revealing storytelling, interviews with key figures and wide distribution, The Ciesla Foundation’s films assure worthy individuals their rightful places in history.
About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.
The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information,
October 16th 2017 marked the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Rosenwald Fund and the completion of the Rosenwald 2-disc DVD with 39 bonus features, a director’s commentary, and access to an online teaching guide. The event was held at the Eldavitch DC-JCC with contributors and supporters of the film in atendence
The Eldavitch DC-JCC’s theatre screened seven out of the 39 bonus features to be released on the Rosenwald DVD. The bonus features screened included “The Lynching of Leo Frank”, “Dr. Charles Drew”, “Rabbi Emil Hirsch leads Chicago Sinai Congregation”, “The 1919 Chicago Riots”, “Rosenwald and the NAACP”, “Rescued during WWII” and, “Langston Hughes.”
Each screened bonus feature was followed by panel discussions. Panelists included author Stephanie Deutsch; Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat; civil rights lawyer Leslie Harris; daughter of Dr. Charles Drew, Charlene Drew Jarvis; author Gary Krist; activist poet Ethelbert Miller; Chicago Tribune Columnist Clarence Page; Rabbi David Saperstein; and Julius Rosenwald’s great grandson, David Stern.
The discussions following each of the screenings allowed panelists to lend their expertise and personal experiences to these important stories. Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat spoke about his upbringing in Atlanta, where the story of Leo Frank was often discussed within the Jewish community, but the Holocaust was rarely mentioned. Eizenstat argued that the legacy of Leo Frank actually scared the Jewish community away from involving themselves in the fight for racial equality in the South. Lawyer Leslie Harris also grew up in Atlanta, but experienced a different reality in the Southern Jewish community. Harris, unlike Eizenstat, had not heard of Leo Frank’s legacy until much later in her life, and because of her personal encounters with anti-Semitism, she was inspired to become an ACLU lawyer.
Dr. Charlene Drew Jarvis spoke about the impact of the Rosenwald Fund on her father, Dr. Charles Drew, and his work. Dr. Jarvis brought a letter written by her father, expressing his grief upon hearing the Rosenwald Fund no longer exists and wrote “It is very doubtful I could have continued my studies in Medicine in 1932-1933 if I had not received a Rosenwald Fellowship”. Dr. Jarvis spoke about her father’s adamant resistance to the widely believed notion that African Americans could not donate blood to aid wounded WWII soldiers.
Rabbi David Saperstein, described as “America’s most influential Rabbi”, spoke about the influence Rabbi Emil Hirsch had on Reform Judaism. Rabbi Saperstein, much like Julius Rosenwald, was inspired by Hirsch’s social awareness and attributed Hirsch’s work to the foundation of Jewish Reform ethics. Hirsch’s legendary sermons encouraged the Jewish community to help in the fight for social and racial justice.
Author Gary Krist and Chicago Tribune Columnist Clarence Page weighed in on the impact of the 1919 Chicago Riots. Krist spoke of his fascination with the way cities were formed during the early 20th century and the consequences the great migration had on racial tensions in Chicago. Krist explained that during the First World War, African Americans from the South were scouted to replace the drafted men in the work force and once the soldiers returned, racial tensions sored.
Page spoke about how a lot of underlying racial tensions are still present today since the riots. Page recalls that in 20th century America, both the North and South were uniformly racist, the only difference being the blatant signage of racism in the south.
Following the bonus feature on “Rosenwald and NAACP”, Rabbi Saperstein spoke about the Jewish Community as being an integral part of the fight for racial justice from the beginning. Saperstein mentioned that Jews felt that if they could be persecuted similarly to African Americans, then they were “in the fight together”. Clarence Page spoke about the remarkable relationship the African-American and Jewish communities have had historically and the inspiration it gave many African-American leaders, including Martin Luther King.
(Below) Stephanie Deutsch and David Stern
Author Stephanie Deutsch and great grandson of Julius Rosenwald David Stern spoke following the bonus feature on how the Rosenwald family helped rescue 300 family members from Nazi Germany. Stephanie Deutsch, married to David Deutsch, another great grandson of Julius Rosenwald, spoke on her experience at a recent family reunion. Deutsch recalled her disbelief at the amount of family members present that were decedents of the German family rescued during WWII.
David Stern, spoke about upholding his family’s legacy of philanthropy. Stern recalls even as a child listening into this parents’ discussions and debates over which causes were best to place their donations towards. Currently executive director of Equal Justice Works, David Stern has dedicated his life towards mobilizing the next generation of lawyers committed to equal justice.
Mr. Ethlebert Miller, a poet and activist, concluded the night after the showing of the bonus feature on Langston Hughes. Mr. Miller spoke about the impact of the Rosenwald Fund on Langston Hughes and highlighted how Hughes’s work inspired the African-American community to embrace their own beauty and ingenuity in the face of their oppression.
Overall, the night was a tremendous success and served as a dedicated thank you to all the supporters and contributors who made the film possible as well introducing audiences to the upcoming bonus features. The Ciesla Foundation is planning many more events of this nature all over the country to celebrate the release of the DVD and to continue to educate the public on the important issues raised in the film.
On June 26, 2017, in a moving ceremony in front of the Chevy Chase Community Center and Library, a bench honoring Civil Rights leader Julian Bond was unveiled. Its inscription reads:
In Memory of Julian Bond 1940 – 2015
A Life Dedicated to Civil Rights
The dedication was attended by friends, family and city officials, including Mayor Muriel Bowser and Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, who initiated the bench’s installation. Also in attendance were a dozen former members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which Bond co-founded in 1960. In her remarks, Cheh commented: “I know it might seem a bit modest for such a grand life, such a giant of a man, but he would be delighted to know that this bench was here.”
“I’m so happy, because Julian always talked about wanting a bench, and now he has a bench,” said Bond’s widow Pamela Horowitz. “We lived in this neighborhood. He walked in the neighborhood a lot, because he said it was his thinking time.” She said she hopes people sit on the bench and “think about how to make the world a better place.”
Julian Bond was the inspiration behind the making of Aviva Kempner’s film Rosenwald. Kempner first learned of Julius Rosenwald’s partnership with Booker T. Washington when she heard Bond give a talk 14 years ago. Bond served as chairman of the NAACP and in the Georgia legislature for 20 years. He advocated for DC statehood and gay rights. His father Horace Mann was the president of Lincoln University and had received a Rosenwald grant.
Some of those attending the ceremony wondered what was meant by “Race Man.” In a Washington Post article, Mark Anthony Neal wrote that “Race man” is a term from the beginning of the 20th century that describes Black men of stature and integrity who represented the best that African Americans had to offer in the face of Jim Crow segregation. It remains an unspoken measure of commitment to uplifting the race. “Race men” inspire pride in their work, their actions and their speech. Biographer Will Haygood wrote of Thurgood Marshall: “He was ‘a race man.’ He was consistently for his race, first and last.” Had the plaque been double-sided, Bond would have liked the back to say, “Easily Amused,” Horowitz said, in recognition of the need to have a sense of humor while doing serious work. Watch an NBC news report here.
Pamela Horowitz, widow of Julian Bond, (standing, center) and veterans of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) gathered to dedicate a bench in honor of Bond.
Councilmember Mary Cheh spoke about Civil Rights Leader Julian Bond.