Robert Bernstein, Human Rights Watch founder, dies at 96


Robert Bernstein, a founder of Human Rights Watch who later distanced himself from the group over its criticism of Israel, died May 27, of respiratory failure. He was 96.

Bernstein also headed Random House for nearly 25 years, emerging as a leading figure in the publishing world. Among many top authors of the day, his company published the works of Soviet dissidents Natan
Sharansky, Andrei Sakharov, Yelena Bonner and Arkady Shevchenko, as well as Jewish Argentine journalist Jacobo Timerman.

Bernstein was the founding chairman of Human Rights Watch, founded in 1978 as Helsinki Watch, serving until 1990, according to the organization.

Gerald Steinberg, the president of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, which worked closely with Bernstein, described him as “a brave defender of human rights,” according to The Jerusalem Post. On his willingness to criticize Human Rights Watch over Israel, Steinberg said of Bernstein “he understood that it was attempting to turn Israel into a pariah state.”

He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Helen, and three sons, Peter, Tom and William; a sister; 10 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

—JTA News and Features

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