Jewish Film Festival screens ‘Rosenwald’

Julius Rosenwald with students from a Rosenwald School. Phot courtesy of Fisk University, John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library

The St. Louis Jewish Film Festival will screen the documentary “Rosenwald” at 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21 at the Jewish Community Center’s Arts and Education Building, 2 Millstone Campus Drive.

“Rosenwald” tells the story of Julius Rosenwald, the son of an immigrant peddler who never finished high school, who rose to become the president of Sears. Influenced by the writings of the educator Booker T. Washington, this Jewish philanthropist joined forces with African-American communities during the Jim Crow South to build 5,300 schools, providing 660,000 black children with access to education in the segregated American South.

Inspired by the Jewish ideals of tzedakah and tikkun olam and a deep concern over racial inequality in America, Rosenwald used his wealth to become one of America’s most effective philanthropists. 

This documentary, from award-winning filmmaker Aviva Kempner (“The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg,” “Yoo-Hoo Mrs. Goldberg,” “Partisans of Vilna”) reveals Rosenwald as a silent partner of the pre-Civil Rights Movement.

Recipients of Julius Rosenwald’s seminal Rosenwald Fund for African American artists and intellectuals included Marian Anderson, James Baldwin, Julian Bond, Ralph Bunche, W.E.B. DuBois, Katherine Dunham, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, Jacob Lawrence, Langston Hughes and Gordon Parks. Addressing needs brought about by the Great Migration, Rosenwald also funded the building of housing and YMCAs for African Americans.

Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

The screening of Rosenwald coincides with Black History Month and is co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Realations Council. 

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the JCC box office or at