Julius Rosenwald, the son of German-Jewish immigrants, rose to become one of the wealthiest men in America as well as a beloved humanitarian. He then teamed up with Richard Sears to build Sears, Roebuck and Co. He became Sears President and was its chairman. Rosenwald's greatest accomplishment is the establishment of challenge grants, seeded for the creation of more than 5,500 schools for poor, rural African-American children in southern states at a time when few received any public education. It is the great story of a Jewish and African-American partnership.

The Rosenwald Schools

Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg (2009)

Aviva Kempner's Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg looks at the life and career of Gertrude Berg, the creator, writer and star of The Goldbergs , a popular 1930s radio show that was subsequently a weekly TV program. Berg pioneered the family-based sitcom format that has proven to be television's most durable and popular genre. More remarkably, she did it by presenting America with an outwardly Jewish family that wore its immigrant heritage on its sleeve. The film also examines the stand Berg took against McCarthyism when she refused to fire her long-time co-star Philip Loeb - who resigned to prevent the cancellation of the show and later committed suicide.

Yoo-hoo, Mrs. Goldberg

Navajo Nation (Work in progress)

In keeping with The Ciesla Foundation's tradition of bringing to the forefront the stories of lesser known heroes, Navajo Nation is the story of Larry Casuse, a young Native American activist and inspiration to his peers. Growing up in Gallup, New Mexico, he witnessed the rampant alcoholism, racism and poverty imposed upon his Navajo people. Attending the University of New Mexico, Casuse worked hard to organize his fellow students and fight to improve the lives of his tribe. Frustrated by his inability to affect change through the system and influenced by the tumultuous political climate of the early 70's, Casuse kidnapped the Mayor of Gallup to publicly expose the hypocrisy of the establishment. He died in a shootout on March 1, 1973. He is considered a hero to his people. For more information on Navajo Nation please contact

Navajo Nation

Today I Vote For My Joey (2003)

Today I Vote for My Joey is a tragic comedy about the 2000 Presidential Elections in Palm Beach County. The twenty minute short depicts a group of older, feisty Jews and a Haitian nurse going to vote proudly for the first Jewish Vice-Presidential candidate, Senator Joe Lieberman. Their day is ruined when they find they mistakenly voted for their nemesis, Pat Buchanan. Also addressed are the issues of voting rights in our democracy, especially for those denied them in "the old country" and Haiti. Starring Lillian Adams, Eve Brenner, Larry Gelman, Rowena King, Eve Sigall and Roberta Wallach. Edited by Steve Kemper (Face Off and Windtalkers) and shot by David Waldman.

Today I Vote For My Joey

The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1999)

In the 1930s Jewish mothers would ask their sons: "What kind of day did Hank have?" Hank Greenberg, the Detroit Tigers slugger who came close to breaking Babe Ruth's homerun record, was baseball's first Jewish star. Tall (6'4"), handsome, and uncommonly good-natured, Greenberg was a secular Jew from the Bronx who became "the baseball Moses," an icon for everyone from Walter Matthau ("I joined the Beverly Hills tennis club to eat lunch with him. I don't even play tennis") to Alan Dershowitz ("I thought he'd become the first Jewish president"). Aviva Kempner's loving tribute is chock full of wonderful archival footage from the '30s and '40s and interviews with a self-effacing Greenberg and many of his Tiger teammates. Plus Mandy Patinkin's rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" -- in Yiddish!

The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg

Partisans of Vilna (1986)

Partisans of Vilna is a feature-length documentary film that explores Jewish resistance during World War II. It recounts the untold tale of the moral dilemmas facing Jewish youth who organized an underground resistance in the Vilna ghetto, and fought as partisans in the woods against the Nazis. The film features 40 interviews in Hebrew, Yiddish and English, with the former partisans in Israel, New York City, Montreal and Vilna, interspersed with rare archival footage from 1939-1944.


Partisans of Vilna

Future Films

The Ciesla Foundation and award-winning filmmaker Aviva Kempner are bringing Samuel Gompers life and labor philosophy to the screen for the first time in "We Want More": Samuel Gompers and the Rise of American Labor. The film draws from the expertise of the foremost-recognized scholars on Gompers, the founder of the American labor movement and the American Federation of Labor (AFL).