A Washington, D.C.-based filmmaker, creates successful and critically acclaimed documentaries about under-known Jewish heroes and social justice. In 2019, she premiered her fifth commercially-released film about Moe Berg , The Spy Behind Home Plate. Her other films include Rosenwald, a documentary about how Chicago businessman and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald partnered with Booker T. Washington in establishing over 5,000 schools for African Americans in the Jim Crow South; Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg, about Gertrude Berg, who created the first television sitcom; and the Emmy-nominated and Peabody-awarded The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, about the Hall of Famer who faced anti-Semitism during the ’30s. Both Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg and Hank Greenberg grossed over a million dollars at the box office and are highly ranked, along with Rosenwald, on Rotten Tomatoes. She also produced the award-winning documentary Partisans of Vilna, about Jews fighting the Nazis.
Kempner is also co-directing and co-producing Imagining the Indian: The Fight Against Native American Mascoting with Ben West (Cheyenne), ESPN Commentator and Washington Post contributor, Kevin Blackistone, and filmmaker Sam Bardley. She co-wrote and is co-producing the dramatic script Casuse with West. The project is about the Navajo activist Larry Casuse, who Kempner knew while a VISTA volunteer in New Mexico in the early ’70s. Kempner graduated from the University of Michigan in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and in 1971 earned her master’s in urban planning. In 1976, she earned her law degree from the Antioch School of Law.
Kempner lives in Washington, DC where she plays a prominent role in the artist and film community. She started the Washington Jewish Film Festival in 1990 and was on the board of Women and Film and Video. She is also an activist for voting rights for the District of Columbia.
She is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, recipient of the 1996 Guggenheim Fellowship and the 2000 DC Mayor’s Art Award: 2001 Women of Vision award from D.C.’s Women in Film and Video chapter, the 2001 Media Arts award from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture and the 2009 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival’s Freedom of Expression Awardee. Kempner received the Bernardo O’Higgins Award and in 2017, a honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of the District of Columbia in 2018 and the Moment award in 2019.
She writes film criticism and feature articles for numerous publications, including The Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Crystal City Magazine, The Forward, Baltimore Jewish Times, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Legal Times, New York Times, The Wrap, Washington Jewish Week and The Washington Post.
Athena Robles is a visual artist whose work involves drawing, sculpture, printmaking, and social engagement art. She has exhibited her work nationally, including at the Contemporary Museum in Honolulu, DC’s Emerge Art Fair and in New York at the American Museum of Natural History and the New Museum’s IdeasCity. Athena is a recipient of a Van Lier Fellowship, among several grants and awards, and she has participated on panels for the Ford Foundation, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and others. Her collaborative, interactive public art projects with Anna Stein have been covered in the press by CNN, the BBC, NPR, the Guardian, MSNBC and other outlets.
Becca Schwartz is an artist living in Las Vegas, NV. She’s been recognized for her photography by the Kennedy Center and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and has exhibited nationally and internationally. Find her online at https://beccaschwartz.net/
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Writer and Social Media Coordinator
Jessie Atkin is a 2015 graduate of the MFA Creative Writing Program at American University. She writes fiction, poetry, essays, and plays. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, The YA Review Network, Writers Resist, Flock Lit, and elsewhere. She is also the Social Media Coordinator for the documentary, Imagining the Indian: The Fight Against Native American Mascoting.
Lillian “Lilly” Reese
Lilly Reese is a writer, reporter and researcher for SEW. She is a 2020 graduate of the University of Maryland with degrees in journalism and criminal justice. In high school, Reese won five individual state championships and earned a spot on Maryland’s track and field team. She worked with Maryland’s athletic department as a media relations intern during her undergraduate years. Reese preferred to work with women’s sports, including field hockey, women’s basketball, women’s lacrosse and men’s and women’s track and field. She has been working with the Ciesla Foundation since January 2020 on several projects including Imagining the Indian, Ben Hecht and Pissed Off. Reese will incorporate her passions for equality and sports to shine the light on important issues facing women in sports.
Contributor and Intern
Paulina Duque is a journalism student at the University of Maryland- College Park with a concentration in film, and plans on graduating in Spring 2022. She began the research for the timeline of Women in Sports and is a writer interning with the Ciesla Foundation. She is also the senior editor for HerCampus- Maryland with a passion for music, film, and advocating for social justice.