BERNSTEIN, ZALMAN CHAIM


BERNSTEIN, ZALMAN CHAIM
BERNSTEIN, ZALMAN CHAIM (1927–1999), U.S. businessman and philanthropist. Zalman Bernstein, or, as he was known for most of his 72 years, Sanford C. Bernstein, was born in New York City to middle class parents. He enlisted at 18 in the Navy, seeing service in World War II. After graduating from New York University where he majored in economics, he was accepted by Harvard Business School and earned his M.B.A. He then spent three years in France, working with the Marshall Plan, becoming fluent in French, and marrying the first of his three wives. Upon returning to the United States, he worked at several security firms and in 1967 launched Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. by placing full-paged advertisements in major newspapers containing a single word in bold type, "Bernstein." Investors were attracted by a reputation for integrity, reliance on careful research, prudent risk-taking and successful results. Though strongly opinionated, he tolerated and even welcomed and respected contrary views. At his death, his company was a respected name on Wall Street, managing more than $80 billion for 25,000 private and institutional clients. The turning point in Bernstein's Jewish life came with the passing of his father in 1977. Though then scarcely able to read Hebrew, he was determined to say kaddish, which led him to Lincoln Square Synagogue in Manhattan and Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, who was a major influence in his Jewish development. In 1984, collaborating with two friends more knowledgeable about Jewish life, he established the Avi Chai Foundation which became the prime focus of his philanthropy. In his lifetime, he contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to the foundation as well as Jewish causes in Israel and the United States. Avi Chai's mission was predicated on the teachings of Rabbi Abraham I. Kook, which Bernstein understood superficially, yet with a sincerity that ran deep. The Kookian principles that he embraced are an encompassing attachment to the land of Israel, recognition of the Covenant between God and Abraham as an eternal legacy of the Jewish people, and a commitment to Judaism's religious heritage that includes mutual understanding and sensitivity among Jews of different religious backgrounds and commitments to observance. Originally functioning in North America, by the early 1990s Avi Chai expanded into Israel where Bernstein in his later years became a citizen and made his home. In Israel, he developed other notable philanthropic initiatives. In North America, day school education has been the major beneficiary of Avi Chai support. Projects have included widespread innovations in Hebrew language instruction and Judaica curriculum as well as a program, unmatched in scope, to encourage new day school construction through interest-free loans. In Israel, the goal of promoting mutual understanding has been manifested by a network of programs known as Tzav Pius. He died in 1999 and left nearly his entire substantial estate to charity. Bernstein provided instructions that he not be eulogized and that no facility or project be named in his memory. He arranged in his life, with characteristic determination, to be buried in Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives, near the grave of Rabbi Kook. (Marvin Schick (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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