R’ Benzion Bernstein, AH

R’ Benzion Bernstein from London, England, who was instructed by the Rebbe to become a lawyer in order to be part of a “taskforce” of religious Jews in the sciences and professions, passed away on Tuesday, 21 Adar, 5783.

R’ Benzion Bernstein from London, England, who was instructed by the Rebbe to become a lawyer in order to be part of a “taskforce” of religious Jews in the sciences and professions, passed away on Tuesday, 21 Adar, 5783.

Benzion was born, raised and educated in England, earning a law degree from London University. But, early on, he became disillusioned with practicing law and, in 1959, he decided to pursue a career in Jewish education instead.

About this time, he was introduced to Chabad Lubavitch, when he was invited to participate in the organization of the first Lag B’Omer children’s parade in London.

“This type of parade – where Jewish children publicly proclaimed their allegiance to Torah – was very successfully staged by Chabad in New York, but Jews in London, who kept a very low profile, didn’t think it would be popular here,” he recalled in an interview with JEM’s My Encounter. Despite the skepticism, the parade was a smashing success, and over 1,000 children participated.

The following year, on the urging of my new Chabad friends, Benzion traveled to New York to explore the possibility of studying at the Chabad yeshivah in Crown Heights. This is when he met the Rebbe for the first time.

“I have no words to describe what that was like. Suffice to say, it was very, very special,” he recalled.

During his fist yechidus, he asked the Rebbe how he could be joyful all the time, the way a chassid is supposed to be. The Rebbe answered, “If you keep in mind that the soul of a Jew is a part of G‑d above, how can you not be constantly joyful?” Then he added, “I see that you are by nature a melancholy type of fellow, but if you bear this fact in mind at all times, you will be joyful.”

“After this audience, the Rebbe looked out for me. Whenever there was a farbrengen and the Rebbe was handing out wine from his cup – what is known as Kos Shel Bracha – he would say to me “Un vos iz mit simcha? – And what’s with the joy?” he said in the interview.

In a later yechidus, the Rebbe instructed him that instead of pursuing a career in education, he should take steps to qualify as a lawyer. The Rebbe wanted to create a “taskforce” of religious Jews in the sciences and professions. He told Benzion, “I want to build up a group of Torah observant people who would be able to relate to those in the sciences and in the professions from the inside. I want these Torah observant people to be role models, to show that it’s possible to be a professional and to be committed to Yiddishkeit.”

“I looked into what it would take to become a licensed lawyer in the United States and Canada, but it turned out that my easiest and best option lay in England. When I reported this to the Rebbe, he told me to go back home,” he said.

The night that he as set to leave New York and head back to England, was the night when the Rebbe recited kiddush levana that month. As the chasidim gathered around, the Rebbe was heard to say, “Where’s Bernstein?” People came looking for him and, when he was found, the Rebbe greeted me with “Shalom Aleichem,” as part of kiddush levana, and Benzion responded “Aleichem Shalom.” The Rebbe then asked him to stand next to him for the remainder of kiddush levanah.

After returning to London, Benzion started the process leading to qualification as a solicitor – a process that was intensive and complicated. During that time, he also got married and started a family, but was not yet earning enough to take care of us all.

“I wrote to the Rebbe, confiding my dilemma, and he answered that he had a scholarship fund which he would make available to me. Thus the Rebbe provided me with financial support until I could start practicing law and become self-sufficient. That’s how important this goal was to him,” he said.

R’ Benzion recalled that there were moments when it was very difficult, and he wanted to give up – especially when he was offered easy opportunities to go into business – but the Rebbe always said, “No. This is what you have to do. This is your mission in life.”

The last time R’ Benzion saw the Rebbe, the Rebbe told him, “You’ll be a solicitor, and you’ll be a good solicitor.” He also gave me a bottle of mashke. “I asked, “How did I merit to receive a whole bottle?” And he answered, ‘You are to share it with all the other lawyers, so that they too can say l’chaim,'” he recalled.

He is survived by his children Rabbi Mendel Bernstein – Toronto, Canada; Rabbi Avrohom Bernstein – Freehold, NJ; Shmuel Bernstein – Toronto, Canada; Mrs. Chana Sara Ifergan – London, UK; Mrs. Esther Miriam Fried – Manhattan, NY; Mrs. Devora Leah Vorst – Rotterdam, Netherlands; Mrs. Bracha Muller – Ilford, UK; Mrs. Nechama Dina Serebryanski – Kingston, PA; grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

He was predeceased by his wife Mrs. Rochel Bernstein.

The levayah will take place tomorrow, Wednesday.

Baruch Dayan Ha’emes

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  1. R’ Benzion (together with his wife) was the real deal. He excelled in the miztva of hachnosas orchim and ahavas yisroel. Always with a smile on his face. So careful with Halacha and minhag but it a beautiful soft way. He was a real soldier. Doing what needed to be done without kvetching or analyzing.

    1. Our family stayed at their home by one of our weddings.
      Literally gave away their home and kept quiet in the corner (as if they were the guests…)!

  2. I grew up in what was a small North West London Jewish Community – Edgware (London UK) – now a thriving hub kah with it`s own Sheliach and Chabad House – we lived in the same road as R Benzion lived before his marriage – I believe he was the first Lubavitcher in Edgware
    ברוך דיין האמת

  3. ברוך דיין האמת
    Our hearts go out to the whole Bernstein family. May we share in simchas

  4. As a teen, I corresponded with R Benzion, then known as Bernard Bernstein. We were of the same age and he was the grandson of my maternal grandmother’s sister. Recently I was blessed to reconnect with the part of the family who settled in England while my grandparents came to the US. It brings me great joy to learn more about the person who was once a part of my early life, even though remotely, and reflect on his life, his commitment to our heritage and how wonderful it is that his children are carrying on in his footsteps.

    His memory is a blessing.

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