Norman Bernstein, founder of Bernstein Management Corporation and local activist, dies at 100.

Norman Bernstein

Norman Bernstein, founder of Bernstein Management Corporation, racial justice activist and native Washingtonian, died on July 5. He was 100.

The cause was pneumonia, his son Joshua Bernstein told the Washington Post.

Bernstein graduated Roosevelt High school in 1939 and went to Columbus University School of Accounting (now Catholic University). By 1940, he was working on his real estate business with his brother, Leo Bernstein.

Bernstein worked with his brother for over a decade before splitting off and founding Bernstein Management Corporation in 1953.

The company now owns 80 properties, 3.5 million square feet of commercial space and is run by Joshua Bernstein, according to the Washington Post.

While running his business, Bernstein lobbied against housing discrimination of African diplomats living in Washington. He protested in a meeting with Harris Wofford, special assistant to President John F. Kennedy, in 1961.

“Compelled by his experiences with discrimination as the child of Jewish Russian immigrants, my 40-year-old father seized the opportunity to propose that all present at the meeting lift restrictions for not just the African diplomats but all people of color.” wrote Joshua Bernstein, in an opinion piece for the Washington Post.

Bernstein was one of only five real estate men at the meeting who opened his apartment doors for African diplomats.

Bernstein supported Jewish organizations such as Adas Israel Synagogue, the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Israel.

He also helped raise money to buy the steamship, Exodus 1947, which was used to transport Jewish refugees from Europe to British-controlled Palestine after World War II and even had a friendship with Yitzhak Rabin, former prime minister of Israel.

He was an activist up until his 100th birthday last year when he and his wife, Diane, used their non-profit organization, Diane & Norman Bernstein Foundation, to make contributions of $12 million to local organizations fighting for equality and justice.

Bernstein was born in the District in 1921 to Celia Kravitz Bernstein and Benjamin Bernstein, who immigrated from what is now Lithuania to Washington.

He also served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was stationed in Washington.

Bernstein’s wife of 66 years, the former Diane Diamond, died April 30.

Bernstein is survived by his six children: Celia Bernstein (Bradley Kesden), Marianne Bernstein (Robert Kalb), Nancy Bernstein (Robert Schoen), Susan Bernstein, Joshua Bernstein (Lisa) and Elizabeth Norton (Robert). He is also survived by his 12 grandchildren: Jacob Kalb, Benjamin Kalb, Molly Bernstein, Noah Schoen, Emily Bernstein, Lena Kesden, Andrew Bernstein, Zoe Schoen, Lucy Norton, Sophie Siegel-Bernstein, Max Norton and Eli Siegel-Bernstein.


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