B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation in Albany will present a screening of “Rosenwald,” Aviva Kempner’s 2015 documentary on the life of Chicago philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, son of an immigrant peddler who became president of Sears, Roebuck and who partnered with Booker T. Washington in the early 1900s to build more than 5,000 schools in African American communities in the American South.
“Rosenwald” will be shown Saturday, Feb. 17, 7:30 p.m. at B’nai Sholom, 420 Whitehall Road, Albany, New York. Refreshments will be available. Suggested contribution: $5.
Rosenwald’s philanthropy provided 660,000 African American children with access to education in the Jim Crow-era South. Rosenwald, who never finished high school, also built YMCAs and housing for African Americans to address the pressing needs of the Great Migration. Inspired by the Jewish ideals of tzedakah (charity) and tikkun olam (repairing the world) and a deep concern over racial inequality in America, Rosenwald used his wealth to become one of the nation’s most effective philanthropists.
The 95-minute film includes interviews with civil rights leaders Julian Bond, Ben Jealous and Congressman John Lewis, columnists Eugene Robinson and Clarence Page, Cokie Roberts, Rabbi David Saperstein, Rosenwald school alumni writer Maya Angelou and director George C. Wolfe and Rosenwald relatives.
The New York Times called Kempner’s documentary a “stirring portrait,” while Film Journal International declared it “an important document for the light it sheds on this almost criminally neglected, philanthropic paragon of American history.” In a 2015 interview with the director shortly after the film’s release, NPR described Rosenwald as “the greatest philanthropist you never heard of.”
Film and image provided by the National Center for Jewish Film.