Aviva Kempner, WJFF Founder and Advisor
Aviva Kempner’s career goal is to make films about under-known Jewish heroes. She produced and conceived Partisans of Vilna, wrote, produced and directed the critically acclaimed Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg. Kempner directed, wrote and produced the Emmy nominated and Peabody awarded The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg and its new DVD version. She premiered her latest two films, Rosenwald (2015) and The Spy Behind Home Plate (2019) at the WJFF and regularly tours the country with them. In 2016, Kemper became a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Miriam Mörsel Nathan, WJFF Director Emerita
Miriam Mörsel Nathan co-founded the Washington Jewish Film Festival in 1990 with Founding Director Aviva Kempner. In addition to her work as Festival Director, she served as a Juror for the Mayor’s Award for Films of the Jewish Experience at the Jerusalem International Film Festival and was Co-Curator of the Israeli Film Festival for the Kennedy Center Celebration of Israel’s 50th Anniversary. A poet and visual artist, Miriam’s work has been exhibited throughout the United States and is in private collections both nationally and abroad.
Ilya Tovbis, JxJ Director Emeritus
Ilya Tovbis was the Artistic and Managing Director of JxJ from 2012-2022. He became the Washington Jewish Film Festival Director in 2012, and took on managing the Music Festival in 2016; he was the founding director of JxJ. He has extensive programming experience in both the Jewish and broader film worlds, having previously worked with the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, The Picture House, The JCC of NY’s Israel Film Center and the Mill Valley Film Festival.
Prior to coming on as the WJFF Director, Ilya was the Director of Programming at The Picture House, a historic arthouse cinema located in Southern Westchester. The theater annually attracted over 25,000 people to a varied selection of programming with a focus on international, documentary and independent film.
Ilya’s involvement with music programming started in the Bay Area through the Berkeley Jewish Music Festival and The Stern Grove Festival. He also founded the Berkeley-based music showcase “The Brew,” featuring monthly pairings of diverse artists such as Meredith Axelrod, Beth Custer, Deli Kanli, Charming Hostess, Glenn Hartman, Kymata, Matt Nelson, Aaron Novik, Rob Reich, and John Schott, Katy Stephan, and Craig Ventresco.