Aviva Kempner


Award-winning documentary filmmaker Aviva Kempner was born in Berlin after World War II to an American father and a Polish mother. Her childhood was marked by the experience of her parents during and after the war. Her desire to understand them led her to a career in filmmaking.

Although she herself did not experience the Holocaust, she used her first film, Partisans of Vilna, to highlight the heroism of those who resisted the Nazis.

Her subsequent films tell the stories of other Jewish heroes — baseball great Hank Greenberg, who inspired Jewish Americans by his success on the field and his loyalty to his religion, and Gertrude Berg, the Oprah of her time and pioneer television producer and star. Aviva’s mission is to tell the stories of figures she calls “under-known Jewish heroes,” and in the process to shatter ethnic stereotypes.

In her interview, she recounts how she came to be a filmmaker, her connection to Judaism, to Israel, and to the greater Washington D.C. Jewish community.

Full video interview

Full transcript

Topics: Holocaust, Film

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I have 46 KEMPNERs in my ancestral database. I wonder if you might be related?
Please contact me:

I just saw the Moe Berg documentary and loved it! I traveled some distance to see it and wish to purchase a DVD to send to a relative who is unable to make the journey. Any information as to whether this is possible?

Aviva is an outstanding person, trailblazer, historian and artist.

Filmmaker Aviva Kempner. Photo by Bruce Guthrie.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Aviva Kempner." (Viewed on June 7, 2023) <https://jwa.org/exhibits/dc/kempner-aviva>.


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