Aviva Kempner


Filmmaker Aviva Kempner. Photo by Bruce Guthrie.

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 grew up in the Bronx (1946-64) and was surrounded by Jewish people.(Italian/German/Catholic) and came to love the Jewish people/culture. I learned from my Jewish friends that studying hard at my school work was the way to succeed.So I say "thank you".I felt more comfortable around my Jewish friends than my other friends. I loved listening to Molly Goldberg and her stories. I miss her. My main reason for writing is that I went to the same high school as Hank Greenberg, James Monroe High. I read a 1960 Chicago article on his struggle playing ball from the article by Ms Kempner. In college I studied to become and accountant but also enjoyed studying about history and wars...Civil War, etc. Then reality hit me.....I started reading/viewing films on the horrors of the Holocaust! I've visited Holocaust museums (Skokie/DC/Dachau) Personally, It makes me question the existence of a God/but as they say "that is not at my salary level".(sarc) I am shocked/saddened at the uninformed who challenge the existence of the Holocaust. I have said enough. James Monroe put at least 2 of its baseball players into the major leagues, Mr Greenberg and Ed Kranepool (Mets) who I,very briefly, shared a locker with on the team. Bless you for celebrating Jewish women. They are strong group!

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.


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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Aviva Kempner." (Viewed on May 24, 2024) <http://jwa.org/exhibits/dc/kempner-aviva>.